By Dr. Marisa Weiss
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and it’s not just because of genetics. New realities and the hurried pace of modern life cause many of us to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, while exposing our bodies to more pollutants. For instance, women are hitting puberty earlier but delaying pregnancy, leaving breasts in their most vulnerable state for more time. We’re also living longer and more of us are overweight or obese, physically inactive, and consuming more alcohol. Some factors (gender, age, genetics, etc.) can’t be changed, but being overweight, not exercising, smoking, and eating unhealthy foods can be improved through simple choices.
What we eat has a huge impact our health. Fruits and vegetables, along with nuts, seeds, grains, and spices can help women manage weight as part of a balanced diet. These healthy habits deliver the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to our bodies. When possible, buy organic foods. Words such as “pure” and “natural” are unregulated, and do not hold any real meaning; these foods may still contain hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals. Regardless of the food type, be careful how you’re cooking it: sautéing, stir-frying, roasting, baking, poaching, and steaming are all healthier methods than pan- or deep-frying, and yes, portion size matters. Broiling and grilling can also be healthy, but avoid blackening foods, as that can create carcinogens. Finally, be aware that filtered tap water can be both cheaper and healthier than bottled water.
Staying active is vital for overall health, but make sure to couple it with ample rest time, so as not to wear out the body. Limiting alcohol and NEVER smoking (sorry, not even socially) are also extremely important. Try replacing these activities with yoga or Zumba classes, or take a power-walk with a friend. Healthy living can be a fun group activity for everyone!
Even things you’re not intentionally ingesting, such as artificial fragrances, chemicals, and preservatives from personal care and household products, or chemicals leached from certain plastics and canned foods, can be absorbed in the body, and may increase risk. Stick with glass containers, bags, or plastics with recycling codes 1, 2, 4, and 5. Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6, and 7.
For additional ways to reduce your risk at developing breast cancer and best strategies to maximize breast health, visit Breastcancer.org’s Think Pink, Live Green online guide. While no single change guarantees protection, a safer, healthier lifestyle is easier to achieve than you think. Start today. Small changes you make today could lower the risk of developing breast cancer tomorrow.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. is a practicing oncologist at Lankenau Medical Center, founder and president of Breastcancer.org, online resource for information on breast health and cancer.