While I love my job, I’d rather be doing something completely different.
I’m a breast cancer oncologist, but I’d much rather be preventing breast cancer from forming in the first place.
For over 20 years, I’ve been caring for those affected by breast cancer – both as an oncologist and as the founder of Breastcancer.org, the leading global online resource for breast health and breast cancer information and peer support. I’ve seen first-hand the profound and devastating effect of four simple words … "you have breast cancer".
As a result, I’ve intensified my efforts on finding ways girls and women can reduce their risk of ever developing breast cancer.
Last year, my daughter Isabel and I published our book, Taking Care of Your "Girls:" A Breast Health Guide for Girls, Teens, and In-Betweens – and we doubled up our in-school assembly program to educate girls (and their parents) on healthy behaviors they can start today that can help reduce their breast cancer risk over a lifetime. This outreach is the result of years of research with girls, parents, educators and the scientific community.
We know so much today that can help us!
I’m thrilled that Comcast has joined me in our mission to make breast cancer history at www.comcast.net/pinkribbon. They’ve assembled wonderful content on all aspects of breast cancer, including prevention. Until all breast cancer can be prevented or cured, we will sustain our vital programs and services to not only raise awareness and provide support for those affected by breast cancer, but to get the message out that there are actionable, meaningful efforts that we can take today to help reduce our risk of ever hearing the words, "you have breast cancer."
Read on for more information about breast cancer prevention.
We know that only 1 out of 10 breast cancers is due to an inherited gene abnormality. This means that 9 out of 10 breast cancers may be triggered and/or promoted by unhealthy lifestyle factors (like obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking, alcohol consumption) and environmental exposures (such as unhealthy chemicals leached from plastic containers, pesticide residues on food, pharmaceutical byproducts in the water supply, and fragrances in personal care products).
During the nearly 10 years of breast development, a girl’s air, food, water, and beverages are the building blocks of her new breast tissue –the foundation of her future breast health. And for adults, the link between our internal and external environment is also critically important to sustain normal daily breast cell growth and repair.
While it’s true that you can’t change certain risk factors, such as being a woman, growing older, having a breast cancer gene in the family, and personal history of breast cancer, there are risk factors that you can modify. From my years of research and ongoing study, here’s what I preach and what I practice:
- Get to and maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise 3-4 hours a week.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit alcohol use to 5 or fewer drinks per week.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that limits fat and includes 5-9 fruits and vegetables a day. Fresh, simple, whole and organic foods are best. If you can, limit processed foods.
- Limit your consumption of red meat, fried foods, and blackened grilled meats.
- Buy hormone-free foods and organic foods whenever possible. If cost or availability is an issue and you need to prioritize, try to buy organic or local for the fruits and vegetables that you eat most frequently that have high pesticide levels (go to Food News for a full list of pesticide rankings).
- If you use a microwave, make sure to use glass or ceramic dishes when heating foods. Avoid using plastic in the microwave.
- Where you can, use stainless steel, ceramic, or glass to drink out of. If you use plastic water bottles, bottles marked with #1, 2, 4 or 5 are believed to be safer than those marked #3, 6, or 7.
- Things that are good for the environment are also likely to be breast healthy. So, for example, if you can reduce your use of fossil fuels (walk or bike instead of drive) or reduce your use of chemical-based products (use more natural containers and less plastic), you’re likely to benefit, too.
- Avoid hormone medications that put extra hormones into your body (like hormone replacement therapy for menopause).
- Know your breasts. While there is some controversy over the usefulness of breast self-exam, I believe self-exam is an accessible tool for many women, especially those under 40 who do not get regular mammograms.
Be sure to check out Comcast’s Pink Ribbon campaign for extra tips on prevention, healthy eating, and Breastcancer.org’s Girls’ Prevention Initiative. You can also find information and peer support at Breastcancer.org.
The Pink Ribbon webpage is available at www.comcast.net/pinkribbon, and much of the information is available On Demand under the Life & Home section.