Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer among women of all ethnicities. With National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center maintains that now is an opportune time for women to consider how their choices may be putting them more at risk of breast cancer. Nationally, the number of diagnoses each year exceeds 200,000 and in Lake County, on average, 596 women a year are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, based on the most recent report from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
While family history has a role in a woman's susceptibility, there are also nutritional choices women can make to decrease the risk of breast cancer.
• Try to consume five servings of either fruits or vegetables daily. That may sound like a lot, but a serving is only about a half a cup, which adds up to just 2 ½ cups total per day. The nutrients and antioxidants help prevent cell damage.
• Control intake of saturated fats such as those in marbled red meat and high-fat dairy products.
• Alcohol can raise estrogen levels and decrease the body's use of vitamin B to prevent cancer from forming so stick with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans of no more than one alcoholic drink a day. That is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits in one day.
• Try to limit consuming red meat to no more than three times a week and avoid cooking at high temperatures, which can release a chemical linked to increased cancer risk.
Those choices, along with regular exercise, will help you manage your body weight, which if left unchecked, can lead to elevated levels of estrogen, a hormone that may be involved in development of breast cancer.
Comprehensive physicals given to female patients at the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center include breast exams. If a physician finds an abnormality, an eligible uninsured patient is referred to the grant-funded Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) at the Health Department. For more information, visit: http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/want/Pages/IBCCP.aspx. For recipes and videos on healthy living and eating, visit: http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/resources/Pages/HealthEd.aspx