October has crept up on us once again, which means it’s time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
This year alone, around 316,000 women and 2,470 men are estimated to be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. What many people are don’t know is you can actually decrease your risk for the disease with a few easy lifestyle changes.
By following these tips, we can all reduce our chances of contracting breast cancer, among other types of cancer:
- Watch your weight. Not only can you extend your lifespan by keeping your weight in check, but you can reduce the chance of cancer cells spreading. After women begin menopause, most of their estrogen comes from the fat tissue in your body. The higher the estrogen levels, the higher the risk of breast cancer developing. Try swapping out that side of fries for a side salad or some veggies and hummus, it’s that easy.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising is linked back to estrogen. Studies have found that exercise can reduce estrogen as well. Of course, it’s not always possible to fit in an intense workout on the daily, but going for a brisk walk for as little as 1.25-2.5 hours a week can reduce risk by 18%. In addition, exercising can strengthen the immune system, which can control the growth of cancer cells.
- Limit your time spent sitting. Evidence from the American Cancer Society shows that women who sat 6 or more hours per day when not working increased their chances of developing cancer by 10% than those who sat for 3 hours or less.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Not only can alcohol increase your chances for developing breast cancer, it can also put you at risk for other types of cancers and diseases as well.
- Avoid hormone replacements. Although many women tend to resort to hormone therapy to control the side effects that come with menopause, you should talk to your doctor about alternative techniques.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone; anyone can be prone to this disease. Check out some inspirational stories about top athletes who have battled the Big-C and won:
Novlene Williams-Mills is a 3 time Olympic medalist for her home country, Jamaica. Just weeks before the 2012 London Olympics, Novlene was told the news no 30 year old woman wants to hear: she has breast cancer.
Despite the horrific news, Novlene kept her composure and raced for her country, receiving the Bronze medal for the 4×400 meter relay.
In the days following the award ceremony, she boarded a flight back to the U.S. where she received multiple surgeries. After a double mastectomy and an invasive follow up surgery, Novlene was finally declared cancer free in January 2013. Only nine months after her reconstructive surgery, Novlene competed in the Jamaican National Championships.
Not only did Novlene win her fight with cancer, but she won the National Championships. The medals did not stop there. Novlene kept up with her training through the next few years and went on to win the silver medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Today Novlene shares her story with the world, noting that breasts do not make a woman, strength does.
Professional mountain biker, Jen Hanks, is no stranger to cancer. In 2011, Hanks was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 35. The doctors reassured her that someone of her age and health should have nothing to worry about, but the lump she discovered wasn’t nothing.
Hanks decided to start her blog, Athlete Fights Cancer, to document her journey and comfort those that may be going through similar situations. After chemotherapy and a mastectomy, Jen was officially cleared in 2011.
When 2013 rolled around, Hanks spotted another lump, but this time in her armpit. This time, it seemed as if the cancer were more invasive. This, however, didn’t stop Jen from pushing forward with her fight. By 2015, Jen was declared cancer free once again and aimed to redeem herself in the biking community.
Today, Jen continues her fight with the possibility of cancer coming back into her life. Although she has discovered another lump in her breast in the past few weeks, she relies on mountain biking to give her a sense of peace and community.
Edna Campbell is one of the more notable names in the WNBA. Edna was in the height of her basketball career when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. She did not let this news stop her, however, and returned to the court only a year later while still undergoing treatment.
Being the first active WNBA player to be diagnosed, Edna and her team, the Sacramento Monarchs, used her title to spread awareness of the disease for the duration of her career. Today, Edna is the founder and Program Director of Breathe and Stretch, a health restoration program for breast cancer survivors.
Karen Newman is a world renowned triathlete who joined Team USA at age 39. Just a few years later, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer at 46. Despite the horrific news, she never stopped training and racing for her country. Karen continued to push through treatment, and even competed in the World Championships in the midst of chemotherapy.
Today, Karen stands cancer free and continues to share her story as a motivational speaker and a world-record breaking triathlete.
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