Your Breast Cancer Protection Plan

Image of a pink ribbon with the words We Can Do It.

Image: Doctornalini.com

In Your 20s and 30s:  Start making exercise a daily habit.  One large new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that women who had been doing 10 to 19 hours of activity per week since they were 20 or 30 had about a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer when they got older.  But the American Cancer Society says even less can help protect you:  30 minutes of activity-basically just walking the dog-five days a week. Get moving!

In Your 40s: Consider a new method of birth control.  Hormonal birth control is linked to a small increase in your chances of getting breast cancer.  “It’s not much of a concern when you’re young and your risk of getting the disease is extremely low,” says Marisa Weiss, M.D., founder of the education site breastcancer.org (and my radiation oncologist).  As we age, our baseline risk is higher. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

In Your 50s: Be careful about putting on the pounds.  It’s easy to gain when your metabolism slows around menopause, but putting on weight during that time seems to be particularly dangerous in terms of your risk for breast cancer, says Marc Hulbert, Ph.D.  A 2006 study by researchers at Bringham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who gained more than 22 pounds after menopause had an 10 percent increase in breast cancer risk compared with those whose weight remained stable.

At Every Age: Live a little cleaner. There are emerging concerns about exposure to chemicals like BPA that can mimic the effects of estrogen, a hormone that can jump-start some forms of breast cancer.  To lower your exposure, eat fresh food over canned, don’t heat food in plastic containers, and go organic when buying the “dirty dozen plus”:  apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, kale/collard greens, and green beans.

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