Accept what can’t be changed
You don’t want to change the unavoidable risk of growing older—because it certainly beats the alternative. You can’t change your family history—the moment is long past when your father’s sperm met your mother’s egg and created your particular mix of genetic information. Having had aggressive breast cancer already is also something you have no control over. And having already had breast biopsies that showed “atypical ductal hyperplasia” or“lobular carcinoma in situ” can’t be altered. You also have no control over when you got (or will get) your first period and when you went through (or will go through) menopause. Even though you can’t alter these risk factors, knowing which you have and what they mean are important first steps.
“Undo” your risk factors
But don’t lose hope. A number of significant risk factors CAN be “undone” to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
With a little or a lot of help, you should try to stop smoking—for good! Try to exercise on a regular basis, aiming for three to four hours a week. Anything you can do to relieve your stress and to enhance your comfort, satisfaction, and joy will have a major effect on your quality of life. So-called “mindful measures” (such as meditation, yoga, visualization exercises, and prayer) are valuable additions to your daily or weekly routine. Making some or all of these lifestyle changes will improve your overall health and possibly also reduce your risk of breast cancer.
You can minimize or eliminate sources of extra estrogen from your diet or environment Individual risk factors, with the following steps:
- Stop alcohol consumption or limit it to no more than two alcoholic drinks per week (this increases your liver’s ability to regulate blood estrogen levels).
- Restrict red meat and other sources of animal fat (this includes dairy fat in cheese, milk, and ice cream), because they may contain stored hormones or pesticides.
- Try to stick to a relatively vegetarian diet.
- Shed any extra pounds and try hard to keep those pounds off.
- If you have already had breast cancer, avoid taking estrogen-like products such as menopausal hormone therapy and DHEA.
- If circumstances allow, consider having children sooner rather than later in life.