The truth is, even if you do everything “right” there is still no sure fire way to prevent cancer. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take proven steps to help lower your risk of becoming one of the more than 55,000 women diagnosed with breast, ovarian, and other types of women’s cancers each year. These five simple suggestions can significantly decrease your chances of of diagnosis and are actually remarkably easy to put into effect!
1. Eat Mindfully.
Forget about going vegan, paleo or gluten free, eating mindfully simply means making a conscious effort to think before you eat. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to eat healthy? If the answer is yes, then have at it! If the answer is no, try asking yourself a few follow up questions to determine if what you’re about to eat is really worth it (Have I already had something sweet today? Am I planning to go out for drinks tonight?). If you know you’ve already treated yourself or are going to be indulging later, you will likely find it easier to resist temptation and opt for something more nourishing in the moment. That being said, if you’ve been making healthy choices all day, then a small slice of cake or a serving of potato salad is nothing to obsess over – enjoy it! Mindful eating is about balance, not deprivation. Eating a well-balanced diet reduces the risk of all kinds of ailments – including cancer.
2. Exercise Regularly.
You have probably heard many of your fitness loving friends reference endorphins as their drug of choice – and for good reason! When you exercise your body releases these feel-good hormones, providing you with a boost in energy and mental clarity and essentially elevating your overall sense of being. As one may easily deduce, exercise also helps to regulate weight gain, negating the possibility of obesity (a common factor associated with MANY cancer diagnoses). But what you may not know is that exercise also plays an important role in maintaining a woman’s hormonal balance. Elevated estrogen levels have been connected to both breast and uterine cancer. However, decreased estrogen levels have been reported in women who engage in moderate to vigorous exercise for three or more hours a week. Studies suggest that women who maintain balanced hormonal levels can lower their risk of breast and uterine cancer by more than 30 percent.
3. Practice Safe Sex.
This one seems like a no brainer, but hear me out. Oral contraceptives, IUD’s, hormone shots and the like are all highly effective ways to prevent pregnancy. However, they do NOTHING to combat sexually transmitted diseases and are 100% ineffective when it comes to preventing cancer. The only way to truly protect yourself against the transmission of viruses like the human papilloma virus (also known as HPV, the cause of cervical cancer) is to use condoms, limit your number of sexual partners, and strive to engage in monogamous relationships.
4. Schedule Regular Exams.
What you don’t know, CAN hurt you. Early diagnosis is your best chance at surviving any type of cancer and the easiest way to diagnose women’s cancers early is to schedule regular breast and vaginal exams with your doctor. While the necessary frequency of breast exams has been hotly debated, many well known research organizations suggest that women should begin getting mammograms annually or bi-annually at the age of 40 (the alternative being bi-annual exams starting at age 50). Pap smears, which aid in the diagnosis of cervical cancer, should begin much earlier (at the age of 21), but need only be conducted every 3 years.
5. Know Your Families History.
While the above is true for most, women who have a known history of women’s cancer in their family are often encouraged to begin regular exams earlier and commit to scheduling them more frequently. Talk with your doctor right away if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with breast, cervical, vaginal, endometrial, uterine, or vulvar cancer so that they can help you decide what, if any, additional precautions you should take to help prevent women’s cancers.
The 13th Annual Kickin’ Cancer Run/Walk takes place on Sunday, September 14, 2014 in Brentwood, Los Angeles, CA. To learn more about this amazing event, visit our team page here.