October is all about the pink – it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Ignorance isn’t bliss when it comes to breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under 35, and over 1500 women from the ages 35-39 are diagnosed every year. That’s a sobering thought.
Women under the age of 50 aren’t routinely offered screening, mainly because their chances of being affected are low. Breast tissue is denser in younger women, making it harder to detect problems through traditional screening. There are private breast cancer tests available, so if you think you’re at risk they are well worth researching.
There’s not much that we can do about getting older, or our genetic makeup, but there are definitely things we can do to at least reduce our chances of breast cancer.
Keep your weight down
We’re not all destined to be a size zero, but with evidence showing that around 18% of breast cancers can be blamed on obesity, it’s enough to make us refuse that second biscuit. The more weight you gain as an adult, the higher your breast cancer risk when you reach menopause.
If you are already post-menopausal, it’s even more important to keep the weight down, as staying a healthy weight can cut the risk of breast cancer by about 20% according to a study by Cancer Research UK scientists.
Just the one?
A low alcohol intake doesn’t affect your risk factor too much – but every little helps. If you drink your allotted two units of alcohol every day, you are increasing your chances of getting breast cancer by 14%. If you have just one more, on a daily basis, that takes the increase up to 21%.
Binge drinking is bad for you whichever way you look at it, but unsurprisingly it’s also very bad news for your breast cancer odds. A study of Danish nurses found that drinking the equivalent of two bottles of wine over a weekend more than doubled their risk of breast cancer.
A Cancer Research UK study estimated that alcohol causes about 2000 breast cancer cases every year in the UK alone. Now that’s a very sobering thought indeed.
Try a little exercise
You don’t have to pound the treadmill for hours – just building activity into your daily routine can really make a difference. Some experts think that being inactive is responsible for 11% of breast cancers.
A mere 30 minutes of activity a day is thought to be all we need to reduce our risk by 30-40%. Any kind of physical activity counts, walking, gardening, even housework. As the advert says – ‘Just do it!’
Keep your screening appointment
If you’re over 50, you’ll be invited to have your breast screen on the NHS, and it’s vitally important that this is an invitation you don’t forget. Although some people disagree, the general consensus is that screening is a good thing, and it’s estimated to save around 1400 lives a year.
If you’re under 50 and concerned about breast cancer, you could look into alternative private screening programmes instead. The chances of women under 50 being diagnosed with the disease are small – 80% of cases are diagnosed in women over 50 - but the option for screening at any age is available.
Get some warm rays…
The scientists that have been scaring us out of the sun for years are now telling us it’s good for us. Staying indoors can mean you don’t get enough vitamin D, which we get from exposure of the skin to sunlight. You can get it from milk, eggs, oily fish, green vegetables and fortified margarines, but you really need to get out in the daylight to make enough of it.
Cedric Garland, of the University of California at San Diego, recommended 10-15 minutes a day of sun exposure, without sunscreen, to allow enough vitamin D to be made – but make sure that you cover up after 15 minutes!
Then chill out
Don’t get too stressed about this one - although one Swedish study in 2003 found that being stressed increased the chances of breast cancer - at least two major studies have found no link. If you tend to comfort eat or drink a lot when you feel under stress, that definitely won’t help, so try to find a way to relax and switch off - meditation, yoga or any activity that absorbs you like painting or gardening.
Many women suffer from lumpy or sore breasts, cysts or fibroademona. These are benign conditions and don’t affect your chances of breast cancer. The only risk factor you need to worry about is called ‘atypical hyperplasia’ which makes your cells grow abnormally. This can increase your risk by up to five times.
Breast pain (mastalgia) is very common: about two thirds of pre-menopausal women experience it at some point during their lives. Breast pain may be cyclical (related to the menstrual cycle) or non-cyclical and isn’t linked to breast cancer at all.
To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Elemis is pledging £10,000 to charity Breast Cancer Care this year, and to commemorate this, has brought out the limited edition Think Pink Beauty Kit which costs £32.50. It comes in a gorgeous pink bag and contains:
• Pro-Collagen Marine Cream 30ml in a limited edition pink bar
• Pro-Collagen Lifting Treatment Neck and Bust 15ml in a limited edition pink 'boob tube'
• Quiet Mind Relaxing Bath Elixir 50ml