By now, seeing pink throughout National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October is nearly as much of a tradition as seeing twinkling holiday lights in December. But don’t let familiarity lull you into forgetting the message behind the color: There are important steps women can take to help reduce their chances of having breast cancer or to help find it early, when it’s easiest to treat. Since 1990, more and more women have been surviving breast cancer, largely because of early detection through mammography and improvements in treatment. However, breast cancer is still the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, behind only lung cancer.
Mammograms can find breast cancers earlier, when the chances of survival are better. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms and breast exams for women age 40 and older. Mammograms aren’t perfect, though. They may miss some cancers, or may detect things that aren’t cancer. That’s why it’s also important to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.
In addition to getting a yearly mammogram, there are other steps women can take to help stay well and reduce their breast cancer risk:
• Eat a healthy diet to help control weight. Being overweight or obese may raise breast cancer risk.
• Get regular physical activity. Working out regularly helps keep your weight in check, and exercise may help control inflammation and other factors associated with cancer risk. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink per day. In studies, alcohol has been clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
This October, do more than “think pink.” For more information about how you can take action, make noise, and help make this breast cancer’s last century, call your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 anytime, day or night, or visit cancer.org/breast cancer.