Exercising regularly is the most frequently cited preventive measure that a woman can take to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. I agree and suggest that you find an aerobic activity that you like to do, and do it consistently – about three to four times a week for at least 30 minutes. However, there are many other things that you can do to reduce your risk that aren’t often discussed in the mainstream media.
1. Sleep. We often sacrifice sleep in our fast paced lives. I know that I’m guilty of it. We often think that we will get more done if we stay up late, when in reality, we will be more productive if we go to sleep and then work on our projects after a good night’s rest. Not only does more sleep increase our productivity, it also reduces the risk of breast cancer in women (& prostate cancer in men). Not getting enough sleep is a major stressor to our bodies and stress has been linked to breast cancer. Getting more sleep not only boosts our immune systems, but a recent study found that getting less than six hours of sleep a night increased the occurrence of aggressive breast cancers and recurrence in post-menopausal women. Although I’m not post-menopausal, I’m going to use this study as a wakeup call that I need to actively work on making sure that I get at least seven hours of sleep every night!
2. Reduce the amount of plastic in your kitchen. Plastics definitely make our lives easier, but come with their share of troubles. They contain chemicals like bisphenol-A (“BPA”) and phthalates which disrupt our hormonal systems (endocrine disruptors) and have been linked to breast cancer. Plastics consist of strings of polymers that are loosely bound and are constantly falling off depending on what they come into contact with. Oil, acidity, heat, abrasion and time increase the rate at which BPA and other endocrine disruptors permeate our food. The first thing I suggest you do is replace your plastic food storage containers with glass ones. These days you can find them at most stores that sell home goods. Next, I suggest that you replace your plastic cooking utensils with stainless steel or wooden ones because they’re being exposed to heat and then upgrade your water bottle to a glass or stainless steel one. Also, while you’re in the process of reducing the plastics in your kitchen, please do not put your plastics in the microwave. For more tips on how you can reduce your plastic exposure in the kitchen, check out this blog post.
3. Ditch your antiperspirant & switch to a natural deodorant. Studies have found that most breast cancers are found in the upper outer quadrant of the breast closest to the arm pits where we apply our antiperspirant. As their name indicates, antiperspirants stop one of the body’s natural detoxification processes—perspiration. Aluminum is the active ingredient in antiperspirants which blocks sweat glands and keeps sweat from getting to the skin’s surface. Aluminum has long been linked to breast cancer as it causes estrogen-like hormonal effects in the body and estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer. Instead of using an antiperspirant containing aluminum, opt for a deodorant that contains corn starch or baking soda for sweat absorption. Check out my article 10 Easy Ways to Transition from Conventional to Natural Body Products for more tips.
4. Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are a family of (mostly) green vegetables that contain the compound indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which has anticancer properties and a protective effect against breast cancer cells. Cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, mustard greens, arugula and bok choy. Try to include some of these veggies in your diet every single day. For example, you can add kale or cabbage to a breakfast smoothie. In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer, you’ll be starting your morning off with added fiber, calcium and magnesium which protect your bones. I also like to sauté these vegetables for dinner or roast them. Try roasting cauliflower, brussel sprouts and carrots with olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt – delicious! You can also juice cruciferous veggies to get more of these protective nutrients into your blood stream quickly.
5. Make time for yourself every day. Research is being done which shows that stress can have an even more negative effect on our bodies than eating the Standard American Diet (a diet high in processed and fast foods). It is important that we manage our stress daily and do things that please us, even if it’s only for 15 minutes each day. I love to meditate for just 10 minutes a day, but simply lying flat on my back and breathing all of my worries into my bed or floor works wonders for me. Find something that relaxes you, whether it’s going for a stroll, quietly sitting on the deck or taking a relaxing bath with candles and soft music. No matter how busy we are with our jobs, businesses and families, we still need a little bit of “me” time to de-stress and simply enjoy ourselves.
Now it’s your turn! I just shared five ways that you can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Were any of them a surprise to you? If you don’t do all five now, which one will you try first?