October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 1,596,670 men and women will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Of those, 230,480 women and 2,140 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, we are learning more and more each day about preventing and treating all types of cancers. The way that you live, what you eat and drink and how you exercise all play crucial roles in the progression of cancer and your ability to fight it. The American Institute of Cancer Research has complied years of research and identified the primary lifestyle factors, which we have control over, that prevent cancer and improve survival if diagnosed with cancer.
Eat less meat, especially processed meat. You don’t have to become vegetarian to prevent cancer, but you should be prudent with the meat you consume. Limit beef steaks and hamburgers and avoid hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham, salami and other processed meats. While the precise mechanism that contributes to cancer development is unknown, the association is clear: diets high in meat, especially processed meats, are associated with greater risk of cancer.
Eat more plants. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (beans and lentils) grow in the ground; they are plants that survive by producing plant chemicals that will then act as protective compounds in our bodies. These protective compounds are also what give food its flavor. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that the components of food that protect us, also provide us enjoyment. Include vegetables and fruits in your meals and snacks all day, every day.
Eat less sugar. There’s a myth that “sugar feeds cancer”. While that is not true, sugar does contribute to inflammation and excessive calorie intake, both of which are associated with cancer risk. Skip the sweetened teas, juices, coffee drinks, energy drinks and sodas and opt for tea and water. Gently satisfy your sweet tooth by mindfully indulging in your favorite treats. And be on the lookout for hidden sugar in everything from bread to yogurt.
If you can believe it, 40% of calories in kid’s diets come from empty calories. We don’t often think of children when talking about cancer risk, but children are developing their taste buds. When children become accustomed to the taste of sugar, that preference lasts a lifetime. Soda, fruit drinks, cereals and granola bars are the top sources of added sugars in children’s diets.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol undeniably increases the risk for breast cancer. More than 1-2 servings per day will increase your risk especially if you have habitually drunk alcohol for many years, have benign breast disease and/or have used hormone replacement therapy. It has been estimated that every habitual 5-ounce portion of wine, 12-ounce portion of beer or 1.5-ounce serving of liquor increases your breast cancer risk by 10%.
Move! An active lifestyle is associated with a lower risk for cancer. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day and work up to 60 minutes a day. Find an activity that you like so that exercise may bring joy and relaxation to your day. Exercise does more than assist with weight control, it improves hormonal balance in your body, which helps reduce the risk of cancer. Find the time in your day to workout regularly; it will boost your energy level and improve your sleep.
Breastfeeding protects mom and baby. Yet another benefit to breastfeeding is a reduced risk of cancer for mom and baby. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods. Support the breastfeeding mothers in your life and your community.
Male, female, young and old, no matter who you are, consider your lifestyle and the small changes that you can make to reduce your cancer risk.
Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.