So much has been accomplished in the fight against breast cancer. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), we now know more than ever not just about the origins and types of breast cancer, but about the roles that genetics, the immune system and our lifestyles play in risk, diagnosis and treatment. But while the progress we have made in understanding the disease has brought with it a much higher level of awareness, it also brings a level of anxiety. Although fewer women get breast cancer, and fewer are dying from it than ever before, there is still an underlying fear that we may be diagnosed. The best way reduce the risk of all cancers is to boost the immune system, stay hydrated, eat a clean diet and exercise regularly. Here are 5 things, specific to women, to promote breast health and prevent breast cancer.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Most adults suffer from sleep deprivation on an ongoing basis—but sleep is the way our bodies metabolize stress hormones and process toxins so that they can be eliminated in the morning. Aim for 8 hours a night and create a bedtime ritual to support deep, restorative sleep. Take a hot bath, darken the room, turn devices off, quiet your busy mind.
2. Move Your Body
There are many studies that indicate regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer. No worries if going to the gym or spinning class aren’t your thing! Putting on music and dancing in your living room, or taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, will do the trick. Studies show that women who walk 1-3 hours a week reduce their risk of breast cancer by 18 percent—so make it fun, intentional, regular and schedule it in.
3. Drink Mindfully
An excess of alcohol in the diet increases estrogen levels and lowers the immune system, and it’s widely accepted that too much estrogen in the body increases the risk of breast cancer. So how much alcohol is okay? The medical community says no more than one drink per day. Any more than that increases your risk to 1½ times that of a non-drinker. In addition, drinking heavily disrupts that essential deep sleep.
4. Eat Like a Bunny
The American Cancer Society advises eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to help reduce all kinds of cancer. Carotenoids are found in leafy greens, carrots and red peppers. Researchers at Harvard University found that women who had high carotenoid levels in their blood had a 19 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. Women who consumed more carotenoids had an even lower risk of developing estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer (which is often more aggressive). Fruits and vegetable are filled with phytonutrients like lycopene and sulforaphane, which also protect against breast cancer.
5. Massage Your Breasts
We all grew up hearing about the importance of examining our own breasts at least once a month in the early detection of breast cancer. But in the realm of prevention, regular breast massage is key. Dr. Christine Northrup suggests, “Regular, pleasurable breast massage is a perfect way to promote breast health! I suggest 5 minutes per day where you lovingly touch your breast without looking for any perceived abnormalities. And, go braless as much as possible. This helps stimulate lymph flow, which releases toxins from breast tissue. It can also feel wonderful!”