What can you do during your 20’s and 30’s to reduce your Chances of Breast Cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. Less than 0.5 percent of women will get breast cancer before age 39. Your 20’s and 30’s are prime time for preventative measures to help keep your risk as low as possible continuing into your 40’s and beyond. Here are things you can control to help keep your risk low:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Staying trim doesn't just look good-it helps reduce your risk of breast cancer. Excess fat can increase the amount of estrogen your body produces which can increase your chances of breast cancer.
- Watch your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. Three drinks per day increases your rate by 50%
- Consider avoiding soy. There is conflicting evidence about whether soy increases your chances of breast cancer due to its pseudo-estrogenic effect. It might be better just to avoid it until we know more.
- Consider a non- hormonal birth control method. The available data about hormonal contraceptives containing estrogen, suggests a slightly increased risk, so consider whether the benefits of the pill outweigh the risk of taking it. If you have a family history of breast cancer, for example, you may want to choose a different form of birth control.
- Have a baby if that is something you would like to do. Women who have a child before the age of 30 have a slightly lower chance of breast cancer. Your breasts complete their development after a first pregnancy, which makes them less sensitive to carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances.
· Breastfeed your babies. Research shows that your breast cancer risk is reduced by 7% with each baby and another 4.3% for each 12 months she breastfeeds. If you have a family history of invasive premenopausal breast cancer nursing your baby can reduce your risk by as much as 60%
- Check out your family history. The biggest risk for breast cancer is genetics. If you have certain genetic mutations, called BRCA1 or BRCA2, you're at much higher risk for developing the disease. 20 to 30 % of women with this gene will develop breast cancer by the age of 40 and 50% will by the age of 50. A simple but expensive blood test, $3,100, can tell you if you are a carrier. There are also significant emotional and psychological consequences of testing to consider as well as the risk of discrimination by insurance companies if you do have the genetic abnormality so keep those in mind.
- Consider getting a breast thermography exam which takes a Digital Infrared Image of your breast. It is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. They compare the image from year to year and it can help detect breast cancer much earlier than a traditional mammogram. A thermography exam does not replace a mammogram for those of the appropriate risk group or age range but it can provide even more information about the health of your breast tissue.
DyAnna Gordon BS,CPM,LDEM is a Southern Utah native, wife and mother of four and a Licensed Certified Professional Midwife serving Southern Utah and providing homebirth and birth suite services as well as herbal and nutritional counseling, and breast feeding support.