A Dozen Things You Can Do Now to Help Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer
The Keep A Breast Foundation was founded in response to the growing need for breast cancer awareness programs that focus on educating young people. October is a big month to raise awareness of the need for prevention education for young people. We work on this all year, but October gives us a huge platform to bring people into our community and encourage them to become a part of the conversation. Given that environmental factors contribute to approximately 90% of breast cancer diagnoses, there is so much we can do to potentially lower our risk.
Consider this an overview of some of the many things you can do to lower your breast cancer risk, as well as be healthier in general. We urge you to further this research for yourself and make adjustments based on your lifestyle and other health information.
In order to know when something is wrong, you have to know how your body feels when it’s right, “your normal,” as we like to call it. We encourage everyone to check their boobies monthly (guys too!) to know your normal. Young people can and do get breast cancer, so we encourage starting monthly self-checks as early as possible. No scary medical procedures, just getting to know your boobies and beginning that positive relationship with them. Research shows that 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who discover their own lump.
Download our Check Yourself! app to learn to do your self-check and schedule an automatic monthly reminder!
Eat Your Medicine
Diet is a big part of keeping your body healthy. Many foods naturally contain anti-carcinogens that fight cancer. By eating your medicine, you can reduce your risk of cancer, while enjoying other benefits like maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your risk of heart disease and increased levels of energy. Food is fuel and nutrient-rich food is medicine for your body. Women who eat a fiber-rich diet are 54 percent less likely to get breast cancer. Other foods to add to the menu are mushrooms, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, chia seeds, garlic, blueberries, seaweed, and more!
Move Your Body
Some studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week can lower your risk of breast cancer by 30-50 percent. Every fall, KAB has a campaign called Fit 4 Prevention with a goal is to inspire people to reduce their risk of cancers by adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle, in a way that sparks their inner champion.
Exercise boosts your T-cells, which strengthen your immune system and help you fight cancer cells. Hiking and other exercise release adrenaline and endorphins, which can decrease tension, anxiety, and blood pressure levels. This can reduce the risk of depression and will leave you feeling better physically and mentally, which will encourage you to continue your new healthy habits. Studies show that exercise during and after treatment benefits cancer survivors in several ways, ranging from improved fitness and higher quality of life to reduced rates of recurrence and a longer life. Cancer patients who exercise may experience less nausea and less fatigue. If you’re coping with cancer or its aftermath, now is the time!
Please Drink Responsibly
No one likes to hear this, it but unfortunately, drinking alcohol is a huge one. There are so many studies about the link between alcohol and an increase in cancer risk, breast cancer included. The overall conclusion is for women, having more than one alcoholic drink per day, does increase your risk of breast cancer.
Check Your Labels!
Environmental factors contribute to 90% of breast cancer diagnosis. That includes the products we use in our bodies (and homes: see next section). The cosmetics industry is very loosely regulated, and unfortunately, the ingredients they use are often not safe. There claim is that their one product contains a “safe level” of harmful chemicals, but when women use an average of 12 products daily, which equals an average of 168 chemicals we are exposing our body to daily. While men generally use less, they still expose their skin to 85 chemicals daily. When we use that many products that contain potential carcinogens, the levels of those chemicals pass the safety mark. Many chemicals used in personal care, such as parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan, and fragrance have been directly linked to many cancers.
Luckily, many great companies produce non-toxic cosmetics, personal care, and cleaning products to keep our bodies free of as many toxins as we can control. Check out the Non Toxic Revolution Give Shop for toxin-free alternatives for your favorite products and download Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living App to scan products in store so you can shop smart and non-toxic!
Careful What You Clean With
Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, it isn’t always as easy as checking our labels. Most states do not require companies to disclose the ingredients in cleaning products. “Even cleaning products advertised as ‘green’ or ‘natural’ may contain ingredients that can cause health problems. Manufacturers can use almost any ingredient they choose, including known carcinogens, and substances known to pose health or environmental hazards.”
Luckily, just last year, California passed the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, requiring brands to be transparent with all of their ingredients! We hope that the rest of the country will follow-suit! Do your research, find non-toxic products from companies who already disclose their ingredients like Seventh Generation and Honest Company, or you could always make your own!
If you find yourself living a super fast-paced daily life, or you’re just an anxious person, remember to slow down for yourself and decompress for your health. Long-term stress can open the door for breast cancer by increasing blood flow to tumors, feeding hormones that encourage tumor growth, and keeping your body in a constant state of inflammation. A few great ways to de-stress are to make sure you get enough sleep, listen to your favorite music when you feel stress coming on, meditate, practice digital detoxes daily, visualize a less stressful situation to trigger relaxation, and hang out with your friends. Find a de-stressor that works for you, and practice it regularly.
Keep Your Phone at a Distance, Literally
While there isn’t any hard science on this, there have been studies conducted regarding the impact of cell-phone radiation on things like sperm count, and more so, brain cancer. Why is this a concern? One of the reasons is because the FCC hasn’t updated their cell phone radiation standards since 2000. Cellphone culture has drastically changed in the past 18 years, and the radiation standards should reflect that. However, that currently is not the case, so we simply do not know what the potential effects.
One of the biggest tips for limiting your exposure to cell-phone radiation is to keep your phone at a distance. Basically what we’re getting at is: stop storing your phone in your bra! We aren’t making any hard or fast claims regarding breast health and phones here, but it’s something to think about. As the research progresses discussing cell-phone radiation, and the fact that we use our smartphones pretty much constantly and for everything, we urge you to keep that radiation away from your breasts, just in case.
Seriously, what’s better than nature? It does so much for us. Whether that means going for a nice walk at your local park, swimming in the ocean, going for a hike, or even camping, it’s so important to get out of the house!
Vitamin D is an incredibly important vitamin that we’re apparently all lacking in as no one goes outside anymore. Spend some time in the sun, letting your skin soak it in - just make sure you’re wearing non-toxic sunscreen when you do. Enjoy a mini digital detox, get away from indoor pollutants, exercise (of course), as well as boosting your mood and lowering stress levels. So go on, get your ecotherapy on.
Bisphenol A (or BPA) and Phthalates are toxins found in many plastics, including food containers, packaging, and linings. Both are found to have links to breast cancer and a wealth of other health problems. BPA is what is known as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it mimics and interferes with your body’s natural hormone function.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to come into toxins like these in our daily lives, especially through the foods that we eat. Both of these (as well as other toxins found in plastics) can leach into the food or drinks they come in contact with, especially when heated.
So, avoid single-use plastic and BPA-lined containers whenever you can. We suggest buying in bulk or finding BPA-free cans, BYOB (bring your own bag… and cup and container while you’re at it), never reuse single-use plastic - especially for food or drinks - and do not heat or microwave plastic containers. Plastic Sucks!
Explore all your Birth Control Options
A recent study suggests a correlation between taking hormonal birth control and an increase in breast cancer risk: the risks vary by years used, types of birth control, and the specific hormones.
This is a tricky one, as there is also a suggestion that hormonal birth control may contribute to a decrease in the risk of reproductive cancers such as ovarian cancer.
People take hormonal birth control for a wealth of reasons. We simply want to provide you with information that you may not have previously known for you to weigh best the options that work for you and to possibly consider non-hormonal methods such as the copper IUD or condoms if that works for your needs and lifestyle.
Be Your Own Health Advocate!
So much of prevention and early detection, but also our general health, is about knowing your body. By taking the time to care for yourself physically and mentally, whether that be the foods you eat, meditating, exercising, or doing your monthly self-check, you become more in tune with your body. No one knows your body like you do.
We strive to empower you with the information and tools you need to stand up for yourself - if the situation warrants it - as well as inspire you to seek out more health education. When it comes to your health: don’t be afraid to ask questions, or get second opinions. It’s your health and your body, and you have the right to all of the information and options out there!
In Conclusion, this list is scary...
We’re never trying to scare you, but rather, provide you with information and tools to live a more preventative lifestyle. However, It’s also important to keep in mind that it is a preventative lifestyle that works for you. We’re all going to drink too much sometimes (if you're over 21), anxiety is real, and some people need (or want) to take hormonal birth control, HRT, or other hormone therapy for various reasons. The point is to be mindful and make conscious, educated adjustments to lower your risk and be better to your body in general.
Download our app on the Apple App Store (17+) or Google Play. And don’t forget to #CHECKYOURSELFIE! It’s easy, just snap a selfie with three fingers to your chest, symbolizing your commitment to self-check, tag 3 friends to challenge them to spread the word of self-check, and of course, #CHECKYOURSELFIE!