Good news: According to the National Cancer Institute’s Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, the overall rate of new cancer diagnoses continues to decline, and the rate of patients who survive at least five years after diagnosis is improving. These trends prove that although far too many people are still afflicted with cancer, cancer prevention strategies work.
But the news isn’t all rosy. Cancer rates in women haven’t declined for several decades and we aren’t making progress in the fight against breast cancer. Each year, almost 250,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and in recent years that number has slowly risen.
Many people think there’s little they can do to prevent breast cancer because they think it’s all in their genes. But mutations of the two genes that are the most well-known risks, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, only cause 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers. Looking beyond genes, there is much that can be done to reduce risks.
Hormones drive many cases of breast cancer. Prolonged heavy exposure to the hormone estrogen is a major risk factor. Here are some things that will help you avoid excessive estrogen exposure and substantially lower your risk of breast cancer.
- Since body fat plays a major role in estrogen production, maintain a healthy weight through diet and physical activity. EWG’s new Cancer Defense Diet gives advice on what foods to eat to reduce cancer risk.
- Drink in moderation, if at all. Alcohol can interfere with the action of estrogen in the body.
- Carefully consider hormone replacement therapy and oral contraception options. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these medications.
- Reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are found in many foods, packaging items and consumer products.
Endocrine disruptors mess with our hormones. Many of them can mimic or interfere with estrogen in the body, and they have been found to cause mammary tumors in animal studies. EWG has good advice on how to avoid some of the most common endocrine disruptors. If you want to learn more, we took a deeper dive into the subject of endocrine disruptors.
If you’re a survivor of breast cancer or another type of cancer, or are worried about cancer risks, the Anticancer Lifestyle Program offers some insights on changes you can make to help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence or development.