Screwing the Rules: Protect Your Pair
How to minimize your risks of getting breast cancer
Yes, they are sexualized; but the reason we have breasts is not to turn men on or to make babies, but to feed them (babies, not men).
At its most rudimentary level, the breast is a gland intended to make milk. Milk is made in the lobules in the breast, drained through the ducts, and expelled out the nipple. Breast cancer is formed when breast cells (which are controlled by the genes in the cell) deviate from their regular growth and rest cycle, creating an abnormality. While cancer is always caused by an abnormality in the genes, 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic irregularities instigated from aging (only 10% are thanks to your genetic lineage aka mom and dad).
The frightening fact is that breast cancer is a reality that most of us in our lifetime will be forced to face. A friend, relative, coworker, or even you will be diagnosed. The stats say that one in 13 average women will have the disease in their lifetime. The figure of one in seven that is more commonly thrown around includes those who are at high risk, that is, if your mother or sister have or have had breast cancer.
Ready for this? The two biggest risk factors are:
1: being a woman and
2: aging. Unfortunately, if you are a woman, you automatically fall into both.
You can’t change (nor would you want to) either of those causes; but, thankfully, there are things that you can do to lower other risk factors. As much as you might wish you could control every facet of your environment, you can’t really regulate your intrinsic internal environment (I will explain below). But when it comes to your external environments, you have the power to take the reins!
Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with information and lower your odds. But keep in mind that doing so does not assure zero risk. It is also important to remember that many women who have a particular risk factor for breast cancer may never develop it.
Your internal environment includes your genes, hormones, emotions, and — once ingested — your external environment. Your genetic makeup has a direct and unchangeable effect on your chances of getting breast cancer.
Your external environment refers to the air, water, food, people, sounds, stress, pollution, home you live in, lifestyle, and spaces in which you place yourself. Much of the food we eat and air we breathe are full of toxins, many of which have been proven carcinogens. When your external environment invades your internal environment (the air you breathe in; the smoke and pollution that seep into your skin; the food and drinks you consume; and the pills that you pop), you are taking in those toxins, too. Remember that your skin is like a sponge, absorbing the environment that surrounds it. Airborne chemicals, smog, and smoke are just as easily sucked up by your skin as they would be if you ingested them through your mouth. You can, in many ways, control your external environment and minimize your risks. Here are a few things you can do now:
Stress wreaks havoc on the body, creating an emotionally and therefore physically toxic environment. Harnessing and finding other outlets for stress will help keep you healthier and saner longer.
If you are overweight, losing excess pounds may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Extra fat tissue produces an excess of estrogen, which can stimulate the growth of breast cells — both normal and abnormal.
Obviously, and for many reasons. But when speaking specifically about your breasts, studies have shown that women who regularly smoke have a 30% higher risk than non-smokers of getting breast cancer.
A Drink a Day
Your liver helps regulate the level of estrogen in your body. Limit your alcohol to one drink of alcohol per day in order to help your liver efficiently do its job. The more estrogen floating around in your body, the higher your risk of breast cancer.
Eat More Healthy Foods
Fish — particularly those high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, and herring — are said to have cancer-fighting properties.
Red Grapes — like the kind that are smashed and turned into red wine — contain powerful cancer-preventing antioxidants called bioflavonoids. They are also a rich source of resveratrol — proven to inhibit the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth — and ellagic acid, a compound that blocks the enzymes that promote the growth of cancer cells.
Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are filled with indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that combats breast cancer by altering cancer-promoting estrogen cells into healthy cells.
Grapefruit contains monoterpenes, which are believed to help wash carcinogens out of the body and inhibit the production of breast-cancer cells in vitro.
Seaweed and other sea vegetables are rich in the fatty acid chlorophylone, which has been linked to breast cancer prevention.
Eat Fewer Processed, Overcooked, and Fatty Foods
Saturated animal fat found in red meat and whole-fat dairy products like butter has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer in young women. This also includes burned food, like charred toast and marshmallows. That black char, scientists say, may up your odds of getting breast cancer. Besides, it doesn’t taste good, so why chance it?
Recent studies link moderate physical exercise and improved immune function and circulation– both are essential when warding off the accumulation of breast cancer cells. Exercise has also proven to increase the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, increasing strength and energy levels, and improving psychological behavior and mood.
In addition to focusing on prevention, the American Cancer Society recommends breast self-exams be performed on a monthly basis beginning in a patient’s 20s. According to Dr. Kathy Schilling, who was part of the team that developed Breast MRI and works at the Center for Breast Care at Boca Raton Regional Hospital in South Florida, “Breast self-awareness is important in identifying changes and possible abnormalities. Abnormalities should be reported to a physician.” In addition to self-exams, clinical breast exams should be performed by a breast-health expert on a yearly basis, and it is recommended that annual mammograms be done beginning at age 40.
Mammography continues to be the best screening tool to detect breast cancer and has been shown to decrease mortality from breast cancer by more than 30% in routinely screened patients.
Dedicated Breast MRI, a new breast-imaging technique, has been shown to detect invasive breast cancer greater than 3mm in size with nearly 100% sensitivity without the use of radiation. Schilling notes that “Breast MRI is so successful as it relies on the identification of new vessels induced by the presence of breast cancers. Cancers rely on vessels to supply nutrients for tumor growth. These new vessels are abnormal and result in the abnormal accumulation of intravenous contrast in the patients breast.”
Bottom line: Protect your pair by minimizing your risk factors and monitoring your breasts through self self-exams and mammography.
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