Breast cancer accounts for nearly 30% of all cancers that affect women in Singapore, making it the most common form of cancer that affects Singaporean women.
Although there’s no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, there are definitely things you can do to reduce your risk. For some women, family history plays a role in the disease, but for others, lifestyle habits and choices significantly influence the disease’s outcome.
In this article, we share with you five helpful ways to lower your risk of contracting breast cancer.
1. Monitor your weight
Obesity and being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer, particularly in adult women and after menopause. Overweight women also tend to have higher levels of insulin, which has been associated with breast cancer.
If you’re at a healthy weight, try to maintain it at that level. However, if you’re overweight, perhaps it’s time to make some lifestyle changes such as incorporating a balanced diet and regular exercise in your daily routine.
2. Don’t drink excessively
Women who drink two to three alcoholic drinks every day are 20% more likely to have breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink. Cutting back on alcohol can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer. The recommended amount is 1 drink a day – this is equivalent to 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine and 45 ml of hard liquor.
3. Squeeze in some exercise
As mentioned above, regular exercise or physical activity can lower the risk of breast cancer by helping you to control your weight. Try to fit in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. You can also supplement this with strength training exercises about twice a week.
4. Breastfeed if you can
Many studies have shown the positive effects of breastfeeding in lowering the risk of breast cancer, though few are certain of how it works. Some have speculated that women who breastfeed tend to have fewer menstrual cycles, and in turn, have lower estrogen production which reduces the risk of breast cancer. Others have suggested that breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to mutations that lead to cancer.
However, don’t stress too much about it – breastfeed if you can, but if you can’t, you can focus on the other ways to reduce your risk.
5. Schedule regular mammogram scans
Health screenings can’t prevent breast cancer, but it can certainly detect it at an earlier stage so you can treat it better. Regular mammograms are recommended for those 40 years old and above, and this can vary with age and your risk level. In general, women age 40 to 54 should consider having a mammogram scan done once every year, while women age 55 and older can do it once every 2 years.
With that said, it’s also important to have a regular conversation with your doctor about your risk of breast cancer so you can be better equipped at reducing your risk. Some common risk factors include being of an older age (60 years and above), being overweight, having a family history of breast cancer or having dense breasts, to name a few. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you are worried about your risk of breast cancer.