Last updated: March 25. 2014 12:20PM - 528 Views
By Laura Kunzman, RN Health Department

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According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 232,340 females in the United States were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. Among these new cases, an estimated 39,620 resulted in death. Women ages 40 and older should get annual mammograms; however, some women may begin breast screenings at a younger age based on their personal risk and family history. While there is not a 100 percent definitive way to prevent breast cancer, some lifestyle changes can decrease one’s risk. Three areas that can reduce one’s risk are physical activity, diet, and body weight.

The American Institute Cancer Research (AICR) has conducted numerous studies on various foods that may potentially aid in cancer prevention. It is recommended that at least two-thirds of one’s plate be filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Foods high in dietary fiber have shown to lower one’s cancer risk and help maintain a healthy weight. A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition described researchers’ discovery that an additional 10 grams of fiber added to one’s diet can reduce their risk of breast cancer up to 7 percent. Foods high in fiber include fruits, grains, cereals, pasta, nuts, and vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are healthy and powerful foods that fight against estrogen-related cancers, such as breast cancer. Cruciferous vegetables include, but are not limited to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, turnips, and rutabagas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity can also lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Studies have also shown physical activity to be beneficial in decreasing one’s risk of colon cancer, as well. The relationship between physical activity and other cancer types are continually being studied. Physical activity provides numerous benefits for the body, including weight loss or maintenance and improved quality of life. Moderate to vigorous physical activity can decrease one’s breast cancer risk starting in adolescence and extending through the postmenopausal years. Moderate-intensity exercise is recommended for at least thirty minutes at least five days of the week. The combination of a healthy body mass index (BMI) and physical activity has shown the greatest benefit in reducing one’s risk of breast cancer. A healthy body mass index is less than 25. Researchers with the National Cancer Institute have offered possible explanations for why physical activity may lower one’s risk. It is thought that physical activity may lower hormone levels in premenopausal women, which can prevent tumor formation. Knowingly to diabetics, physical activity can decrease insulin levels. This is also beneficial in the prevention of breast cancer, by boosting the body’s immunity. There is not a 100% definitive way to prevent breast cancer; however, women should strive to make lifestyle changes that can lower their risk and improve their overall health.

The Sampson County Health Department offers the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program – BCCCP – for women who are age 50-64 and are uninsured, underinsured and who meet certain federal income guidelines. The BCCCP Program offers free clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, Pap testing and education to women who qualify. For example, a two-person household, such as a husband and wife, can have a combined income of $38, 775 annually and the woman qualifies for the program if she is uninsured or underinsured. For more information, you can contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, ext. 4214. To make an appointment, you can call the Health Department at 910-592-1131, extension 4001, 4960 or 4220.

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