Breast care Tips

Support your pair! Our dozen cancer-fighting do’s may go a long way toward keeping you healthy and lowering your risk.

Exercise, exercise, exercise!
Here’s why it may help: Fat cells produce estrogen, and high levels of that hormone have been linked to certain cancers. Working out can shrink the size of fat cells, so your body pumps out less estrogen. The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (ideally, spread out, not all at once). Any kind of cardio will do, so hop on your bike or hit the nature trail. If your time is limited, exercising at high intensity for 75 minutes a week will have the same benefit.

Indulge in some chocolate
As if you needed another excuse! Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that may fight fast-growing cancers. “The compound interacts with an enzyme, which causes cancerous cells to die but leaves normal cells alone,” explains Richard Pestell, M.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University. The finding may one day even lead to adding some chocolate to current cancer treatments. In the meantime, it gives you a good reason to enjoy a square.

Don’t lose it over a lump
It’s easy to freak out if you find something during a self-exam—or to go into denial and do nothing. Here’s some perspective: Four out of five lumps felt in the breast are benign, says Alonzo P. Walker, M.D., director of the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Breast Care Center in Milwaukee. Many times a new bump turns out to be a cyst, or fluid-filled sac, associated with hormonal fluctuations. Though a new lump is probably not cancer, get it checked out by your doctor, just in case.

Fill up on fruit and veggies
The one thing it’s pretty much OK to pig out on is produce, and now it turns out that eating your vegetables and fruit may actually help curb cancer. Several recent studies have suggested that eating a lot of fruit and veggies may be associated with a lowered risk for developing estrogen-receptor-negative breast tumors. The effect may be due to the fact that produce tends to be rich in carotenoids, natural pigments that often serve as antioxidants. Estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancers make up only about 15 percent of all breast cancers, but they’re particularly hard to treat. The USDA advises that you fill half your plate with produce.

Drink less alcohol
Sure, there’s a positive health buzz around booze, but a meta-analysis of 53 studies showed that women who drank more than three drinks a day had 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer as did nondrinkers. Try to keep it to one serving a day or less: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Get a good night’s sleep
Staying up late can result in greater exposure to light at night, which suppresses melatonin levels. That can be a problem because research suggests melatonin may help regulate estrogen. Another reason to turn in early and get seven to eight hours.

Don’t forget folic acid
Not eating enough folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, is linked with impaired ability to repair DNA. And damaged DNA has, in turn, been linked to cancer. Folate is found in foods such as spinach and black-eyed peas, as well as in folic-fortified cereals and grains. Try to get 400 micrograms daily.


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