Your Breast DefenseIN WOMEN'S HEALTH
Breast cancer may develop for a variety of reasons such as genes inherited from your parents, advancing age, or from exposure to infections, drugs, tobacco, or chemicals. According to the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org), experts don't know how to prevent breast cancer, but they do know it's important you follow the early detection advice of your doctor. In addition, if you're at average risk for breast cancer, you might be able to further reduce your risk. Lifestyle factors you may be able to adjust to minimize your chance of developing the disease include:
- Having children before the age of 30. Women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk.
- Not using oral contraceptives. Studies have suggested that women using oral contraceptives have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them.
- Discontinuing use of hormone replacement therapy. It has become clear that long-term use of hormone replacement therapy after menopause (particularly estrogens and progesterone combined) increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Breast feeding your children. Some studies suggest that breast feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if breast feeding is continued for 18 months to two years. However, other studies found no impact on breast cancer risk.
- Avoiding alcohol. Use of alcohol is clearly linked to a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. Compared with nondrinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk, and those who have two to five drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk of women who don't drink alcohol.
- Maintaining a slim body. Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially for women after menopause (which usually occurs at age 50).
- Exercising regularly. Exercise and cancer is a relatively new area of research. Recent studies show that strenuous exercise in your youth might provide life long protection against breast cancer and that moderate to strenuous physical activity as an adult can lower breast cancer risk.
Knowledge is power, and in the case of cancer it can improve your ability to avoid or detect the disease and lead a healthier life. Here is basic information from the National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov) to help you in your quest.
Normal and Abnormal Cells
The body is made up of cells. Normal cells grow and die in a controlled way, but sometimes cells keep dividing and growing without normal controls, causing an abnormal growth called a tumor. If the tumor does not invade nearby tissues and body parts, it is called a benign tumor, or non-cancerous growth. Benign tumors are rarely life threatening. If the tumor invades and destroys nearby cells, it is called a malignant tumor, or cancer.
Blood Vessels and Lymph Channels
Cancerous cells may spread to different parts of the body through blood vessels and lymph channels. Lymph is a nearly clear fluid produced by the body that drains waste from cells. It travels through special vessels and bean-shaped structures called lymph nodes. The purpose of cancer treatments is to kill or control abnormally growing cancerous cells.
Sources: cancer.org, nlm.nih.gov © 2013. True North Custom Media. All Rights Reserved.