In past years I have provided information on general awareness including the role of a healthy diet in helping to reduce the likelihood of breast cancer.
As we focus on Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October the following is a reiteration of some recommendations for serious consideration to support this initiative.
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Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Each year in the United States, more than 250,000 women get breast cancer and 42,000 women die from the disease. Some additional facts include the following:
- In 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases
- About 43,600 women will die from breast cancer in 2021.
- 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is estimated that in 2020, approximately 30% of all new women cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer.
- There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
- On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
More research needed on weight, diet
Healthy lifestyle choices are linked to a lower risk of different types of cancer and other health conditions, such as heart disease. A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.
Studies on maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of a first-time breast cancer suggest that overweight women have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause (when most breast cancers occur) compared to women at a healthy weight.
Overweight women are thought to be at higher risk for breast cancer because the extra fat cells make estrogen, which can cause extra breast cell growth. This extra growth increases the risk of breast cancer. Other studies such as the Women’s Health Initiative Trial suggested that a diet very low in fat may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
More research is needed in this important area for women who are interested in eating well to reduce their risk of ever getting breast cancer.
Boosting your immune system
Although no food or diet can prevent you from getting breast cancer some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be, boost your immune system, and help keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible.
Some general recommendations proposed by Registered Dietitians (RDs) include:
- Keep your body weight in a healthy range for your height and frame. Body mass index though not a perfect measurement, can help you estimate your healthy weight.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit (more than 5 cups a day).
- Try to limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your total calories per day, and limit your fat intake to about 30 grams per day.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid trans fats, processed meats, and charred or smoked foods.
You’ll find that processed foods generally don’t fit in this type of diet as well as fresh foods do.
More:Get the facts to fight back during Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Being active, eating a balanced diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life. And it can also produce positive benefits in helping prevent and/or reduce breast cancer.
Thanks to the Breast Cancer Awareness organization as well as the Susan G. Komen organization for much of the content provided in this column.
Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website cdc.gov/cancer/breast/
An explanation on the role of healthy lifestyle choices can be accessed at komen.org/breast-cancer/risk-factor/lifestyle/
A discussion of steps to reduce the risk for breast cancer with a focus on prevention is available through the Mayo Clinic at mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected].
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