It’s October and by now you should know from all the media messages that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM)! My first sign that it was BCAM was when the NFL “turned pink” and teams sported the pink gloves and cleats. Anyone who watches football can’t possibly miss the message.
The reason for BCAM is to gain awareness for breast cancer and learn how to prevent it. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), cancer strikes about 1 in 3 adults over his or her lifetime and according to breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. You may be thinking, “Can I really help prevent breast cancer with odds like that?” Yes! A genetic predisposition may exists for some indiviuals for some cancers (such as cancer of the breast), but cancer can be influenced largely by basic lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, tobacco use, and exposures to environmental carcinogens (sunlight, parasites, viruses, etc.). For all types of cancer, prevention begins by replacing unhealthy lifestyle choices with healthy ones.
What about moderation, you ask? Well, moderation can be the better choice at times, but it may not always end up being in your favor. Let’s just say cancer doesn’t form overnight so we need to be cautious of what choices we make over time. Let’s use alcohol, for example, which is a highly studied and widely consumed carcinogen and risk factor for cancer. Anything that increases your chance for developing cancer is called a risk factor. Consuming alcohol may lead to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, and colon. The only way to reduce your risk of cancer from alcohol is by abstaining from the exposure altogether. I know for some that doesn’t seem realistic, and I’m not suggesting you cut everything bad out of your diet either because complete protection against cancer is impossible. There are also many factors that are beyond our control. What I am saying is that it’s important to know the facts and the risk factors for cancer. With the rise in cancer rates, we need to be aware of our past, current, and future lifestyle choices.
There are ways to reduce your risks for developing cancer. Addressing dietary habits is a great place to start and can help prevent other diseases and conditions as well, such as heart disease and diabetes. Here are some dietary guidelines the ADA recommends for cancer prevention 1. Keep a Healthy Weight 2. Limit Calorie-Dense, Nutrient-Deficient Foods 3. Eat Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, and Legumes 4. Limit Intake of Red Meats and Processed Meats 5. Limit Alcohol 6. Consume Less Salt (Sodium) 7. Choose Whole Foods Over Supplements