5 Tips to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Cancer is responsible annually for about 8 million deaths worldwide. This number becomes even more shocking if we take into account that up to 50% of cancers can be prevented through simple care and some changes in lifestyle.

Breast rancer risk
Breast rancer risk

At least one third of cancer deaths are caused by factors that can be controlled, such as:
  • Smoking
  • Excessive solar exposure
  • Overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Unprotected sex
  • Urban air pollution
  • Exposure to combustion of solid fuels, mainly wood and coal
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Diet rich in red meats and fats

Many cases of cancer are of genetic origin or are caused by infections that we can not control. There are still several types of cancers whose cause is unknown. However, there is enough scientific knowledge to avoid the millions of cancers that are caused by known and easily preventable factors. In this text we will give 5 simple tips that help in the prevention of cancer.

Avoid smoking

Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of cancer, accounting for 20 to 30% of cancer deaths worldwide. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by up to 30 times. As if that were not enough, the cigarette is associated with several other malignant tumors, such as leukemia, cancers of the oral cavity, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, nasopharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, liver, stomach, cervix, kidney, large intestine and bladder.

A single cigarette contains more than 4000 chemicals, at least 400 of them toxic and 50 known carcinogens (which can cause cancer).

Cigarette smoking is such a malignant substance that it made lung cancer, which was rare in the early twentieth century, one of the leading causes of death in the modern world. Fortunately, anti-smoking campaigns in recent years have been effective in reducing the number of smokers, which for the first time in decades has caused a decline in lung cancer.

The dangers of smoking are more commonly associated with smoking, but can also occur with cigar, pipe, cigarillo and marijuana. Secondhand smoke is also associated with a higher incidence of cancers.

When the subject is cancer risk, there is no "light cigarette" or "less harmful cigarette". Everyone causes cancer. Likewise, there is no safe amount of smoke. Obviously, the higher the cigarette consumption the greater the exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens. But even smoking two or three cigarettes on weekends alone is enough to increase the risk of cancer. It is an illusion to think that the guy who only smokes when he goes out at night to drink does not take risks.

No smoking is currently the primary measure for cancer prevention. Even individuals who have smoked for many years benefit from stopping smoking.

Avoid excessive sun exposure

Skin cancer is the most common malignant tumor in humans. More than 1 million new cases occur annually around the world. In Brazil, skin cancer accounts for about 25% of all cancers.

There are basically three types of skin cancer:

Ultraviolet radiation (mainly UVB rays) from the sun is primarily responsible for the development of skin cancer. In addition to the sun's rays, this radiation is also found in tanning booths.

The risk of skin cancer is directly proportional to the amount of solar radiation that the individual received during their lifetime. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are associated with frequent sun exposure. Its appearance is a result of the cumulative effect of ultraviolet rays on the skin. They arise in people who get sun often, for years in a row. Melanoma, which is the most aggressive skin cancer, is related to occasional but intense exposure to the sun. Melanoma appears in those people with lighter skin that from time to time expose themselves too much in the sun, getting very red and burnt skin.

All individuals should limit the time spent in the sun, especially between the periods of 10 hours to 16 hours. Always use sunscreen with a protection factor greater than 30 (SPF 30) if you have brown skin or above 50 (SPF 50) if you have lighter skin. Even with a protector, do not expose yourself for too long to the sun and wear hats, sunglasses and protect yourself with umbrella.

Risk behavior for skin cancer begins in childhood and, as the risk is cumulative, it is important to educate children early on about the risk of excess sun.

Avoid artificial tanning, as they are as or more dangerous than prolonged sun exposure.

Avoid being overweight

Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon, uterus, kidneys, esophagus, pancreas, thyroid, lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, and prostate. Obesity has been estimated as the leading cause of 1 in 5 new cancer cases detected.

Not only obesity, but weight gain is also associated with the risk of cancer. Men who gained more than 20 kg after age 20 have a 60% higher risk of colorectal cancer than men who gained less than 5 kg in the same period.

The period of life that occurs weight gain can also affect the risk of cancer. Being overweight during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood carries more risks than developing overweight late.

Obese patients who manage to lose weight reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer, including prostate, ovary, colon and breast. Patients with morbid obesity who undergo stomach reduction surgery are able to reduce the risk of cancer by up to 60%.

Practice physical exercises

Sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for being overweight and thus an important risk factor for the onset of cancers. However, there are indications that sedentarism by itself is also responsible for some types of cancers, even in patients with adequate body weight.

It is estimated that sedentary lifestyle is associated with at least 5% of cancer deaths. Studies show that regular physical activity is associated with a decreased risk for cancers of the liver, colon, pancreas, breast, and stomach. Physical activity during certain periods of life, such as adolescence, may offer additional protection against malignancies, especially against breast cancer.

The exact duration, intensity, and frequency of physical activity that may provide protection against cancer is unknown. The current recommendations for adults are at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (walking briskly, cycling, housework and gardening, climbing hills...) or 75 minutes a week of intense intensity (running, playing sports, swimming, bodybuilding...). For children, the recommendation is at least 60 minutes for activities of moderate to intense intensity daily.

Physical activity has a double effect on cancer prevention, as it fights physical inactivity and helps control body weight.

Practice safe sex

Almost 20% of all cancers are related to infections, including diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. Not all infections that increase the risk of cancer are easy to avoid. The most common example is infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which increases the risk of stomach cancer.

However, sexually transmitted infections are preventable through actions such as reducing the number of sex partners and using condoms. Among STDs that increase the risk of cancer are:
  • HPV - associated with cervical cancer
  • Hepatitis B - associated with liver cancer
  • Hepatitis C - associated with liver cancer
  • HIV - associated with various cancers

There is already a vaccine against hepatitis B and HPV, which helps reduce the risk of cancer of the liver and cervix, respectively.

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