Mammograms save lives; catching breast cancer early increases the likelihood that treatment will be successful, so says a new massive 30-year trial in Sweden.
But women and girls who want to reduce their chances of that dreaded diagnosis can make some lifestyle changes and rethink their everyday choices.
"Most breast cancers don't run in families,'' said Dr. Marisa C. Weiss, president and founder of Breastcancer.org. "In fact, the development of all breast cancers is strongly influenced by the environment, our lifestyles and our reproductive choices."
Exposure to chemicals found in the food we eat, the beverages we drink, the air we breathe, in the medicines we take, and in our personal products can affect the development and the daily operations of our breast cells, and may increase our risk of breast cancer, Weiss said.
"With or without a family history, there's a lot we can do to reduce our risk by making the healthiest choices possible."
Here are some tips adapted from Breastcancer.org's "Think Pink, Live Green: Protect Your Breast Health – A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer."
1) Skip the extra hormones. "Consider non-hormonal solutions, such as an intrauterine device (IUD) for contraception, lubrication for vaginal dryness, and meditation and acupuncture for hot flashes," suggests Think Pink.
2) Find your healthy weight and stay there. Of all the tips in "Think Pink," this one is mandatory for anyone who wants to reduce her risk of breast cancer.
3) Exercise regularly. Shoot for at least 3 to 4 hours per week, but more is better.
4) Keep the cocktails to a minimum. Breast cancer incidents increase with alcohol consumption, according to a 2007 study.
5) Don't smoke. Avoid exposure to smoke and places and things that smell of smoke.
6) Soak up a little sunshine – get your Vitamin D. Ask your doctor for the right daily dose. Big city dwellers are especially likely to be Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D3 supplements, oily fish and dairy products fortified with vitamin D are the best sources. Try to choose organic, fat-free dairy products.
7) Rethink your diet. Cook real food from scratch. Nix the deep frying. Eat small meals and make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds and spices the main ingredients for most meals. These foods are packed with nutrients and have relatively few calories.
8) Heat Healthy; Use Safe Food Storage. Avoiding heating up food in plastic containers. And non-stick pans can emit harmful chemicals when used at very high heat. Consider stainless steel, ceramic, cast-iron and enamel-covered metal containers, pots and dishes for cooking, storing and serving food.
9) Drink from the tap. Choose filtered tap water over bottled water that may or may not be filtered.
10) Sleep. We all need to get our Z's to repair and heal our bodies from everyday wear-and-tear.
11) Cleanse Your Vanity. Choose personal care products without fragrances, hormones or preservatives. Visit http://www.safecosmetics.org and http://www.ewg.org/files/EWG_cosmeticsguide.pdf for more information.
12) Green Your Home. Try organic and other household cleaning products and supplies identified as "green." Find more tips from the Cancer Prevention Coalition here. And information on healthy and green products here.