October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The chance that a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer over her lifetime is 1 in 8. However, many men are diagnosed with breast cancer, too. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues conducting research into breast cancer to discover potential causes and to develop better diagnostics and treatments for this disease.
Mammograms every year for women aged 40-70, especially for high-risk women who have had a first-degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer, are encouraged in order to help detect breast cancer at the earliest and most treatable stages. However, a VA study urges discreet use of mammograms for women older than 70, as the radiation exposure from mammograms may outweigh the potential benefits for elderly women in very poor health.
Mammograms may detect cancer, but they do not prevent cancer. While the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, here are a few tips that may help reduce the risk of developing the disease:
- Don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that excess weight may increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily. The fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of breast cancer and some other cancers.
- Conduct self-breast examinations monthly. Seventy percent of all breast cancers are found through self-breast exams.
- Reduce the negative stress in your life. Keeping a positive, relaxed outlook may be beneficial for the immune system, therefore reducing the risk of some diseases.