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Everyday Steps to Prevent Breast Cancer

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we not only want to make sure that women understand the importance of self-awareness and women’s health, but also realize that there are important steps you can take each day to prevent breast cancer.

Beginning in their 20s, into their 50s, black women are twice as likely to die of breast cancer as white women who have breast cancer, statistics show. In older black women, cases of breast cancer decline, but the high death rates persist. Overall, breast cancer deaths have been declining for nearly a decade (by 2 percent annually), yet deaths of African-American women have been dropping at a much slower pace. In 2009, an estimated 40,170 women will die from breast cancer. Nearly 6,000 will be African-American women.

What can you do to cut those risks?

1. Limit yourself to two or three alcoholic drinks a week

Alcohol, consumed even in small amounts, is believed to increase the risk of breast cancer. Most doctors recommend cutting back on wine, beer, and hard liquor.

A recent study showed the link between drinking and breast cancer was especially strong in the 70% of tumors known as hormone-sensitive.

2. Exercise at least three to four times a week

And when you do exercise, work to keep your heart rate above its baseline level for a minimum of 20 continuous minutes. Long walks are nice too, but it’s the more vigorous exercise (expect to sweat!) that really helps your heart and cuts your cancer risk.

3. Maintain your body weight, or lose weight if you’re overweight

Research shows that being overweight or obese (especially if you’re past menopause) increases your risk, especially if you put on the weight as an adult. And a study released in March 2008 by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed that obese and overweight women also had lower breast cancer survival rates and a greater chance of more aggressive disease than average-weight or underweight women.

4. Do a monthly breast self-exam

Be sure to get proper instruction from your doctor and have your technique reviewed regularly. You might catch a lump before a mammogram does, and it’s a good idea to follow the changes in your body.

5. Have a mammogram once a year after about 35-40 years of age

Catching a tumor early boosts the chance of survival significantly: The five-year survival rate can be as high as 98% for the earliest-stage localized disease, but hovers around 27% for the distant-stage, or metastatic, disease. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may have to begin your screenings even sooner – check with your doctor or a breast cancer specialist about the prevention strategy that works best for you.

[source: By Lorraine Jones, BDO]
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