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Breast Cancer and Young Women by Jennifer Snyder

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Each year, one million individuals are diagnosed with cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that of this one million, 296,980 of these cases will be women diagnosed with breast cancer in the year 2013.  Of the 296,980 diagnosed, 7 percent will be women under the age of 40 or roughly 20,789 women. This is a staggering figure, considering most women in this age bracket do not consider themselves at risk for a silent killer such as breast cancer.

Breast cancer has become the second leading cause of death in women in the United States. The chance a woman will die of breast cancer is 1 in 36 (about 3%). This percentage equals 39,620 women who will die of this disease in 2013. Knowing these facts, it is crucial to stress the importance and increased awareness of breast cancer to young women who may face these challenges in their lifetime.

Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are several things all women can do to lower their risk of occurrence:

  • Reduce the consumption of processed foods. Much of the taste and aroma in these foods are manufactured at chemical plants. This includes “healthy choices” in fast food restaurants. These types of foods are completely reformulated to appear familiar but instead include unknown substances many of us are unable to pronounce. Studies have shown the chemicals used in most of these foods increase the chances of many types of cancers including breast cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Being overweight can increase cancer risk in several ways.  Excess weight causes the body to produce hormones that can trigger cancer growth.  Controlling your weight can help prevent other chronic diseases as well, such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Eat healthy foods. Choose vegetables, whole fruit, and other low-calorie foods instead of dense foods such as French fries, potato chips, and ice cream.  Read all food labels to become aware that “low-fat” or “non-fat” does not necessarily mean “low-calorie.”  Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened drinks such as sodas and fruit drinks.  Maintaining a healthy diet helps maintain a healthy weight which decreases your chances of most cancers.
  • Exercise regularly. Commit to being more active.  Being active helps to decrease the cancer risk by controlling your weight.  The current recommendations for adults call for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity every week.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.  The recommended limit for women is 1 drink per day.  Studies have shown women who consume more than the recommended amount increase the risk for not only breast cancer, but cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus.

Catching breast cancer in the early stages can be life-saving.  A clinical breast exam (CBE) is recommended for all women in their 20s and 30s every three years. Yearly mammograms are recommended for women starting at age 40.  All women, regardless of age, should complete monthly breast self-exams and report any breast change promptly to their health provider.  By doing these small steps you can likely save your life or the life of someone you love.






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