Reducing your breast cancer risk |27 October 2023
Breast cancer affects millions of people worldwide, especially women. As a way of bringing more visibility to this condition, October is designated as ‘breast cancer awareness month’ which is commonly known for its ‘pink theme’. The month usually includes a range of activities such as campaigns, screening programmes, talks and even walks organised by representatives from the health sector or NGOs or other groups advocating for breast cancer awareness.
Breast cancer awareness month aims to support those living with breast cancer or who have recovered from the condition; make the public more aware of the risk factors for breast cancer; continue to educate about the importance of breast cancer screening especially after the age of 40 years or earlier for those with a family history of the condition and raise funds for breast cancer research.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Breast cancer risk factors are many, but the two main ones are being a woman and growing older. Those two factors are impossible to change, but you can change other risk factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and not exercising regularly. Prevention remains one of the best ways to reduce your risk, so let’s start by paying a closer attention to what we ear eating!
Diet and breast cancer
Make healthier dietary choices
It’s amazing how our food system has changed over the years, with many of us not even realising it. There was a time when meat was a Sunday affair and fizzy drinks and sweets were things you only got at a party or as a treat. Nowadays meat is a daily item for some while sugary foods has become a staple in many households, especially among the younger generation.
What we feed our body is so important not only for our survival but also for our daily bodily functions. The food we eat can modify our body cells in positive or negative ways. Foods may contain compounds that are protective against a range of diseases like cancer, but may also contain others that promote cancer growth. So when we talk about chronic diseases like cancer what you eat or don’t eat really does make a difference.
Although there is no perfect diet for cancer prevention, let alone breast cancer, paying close attention to individual foods you consume every day can make a significant difference in reducing your risk of developing the disease. This is alongside other lifestyle choices you make every day.
Have a diversified diet
Some common features of a healthy diet include diversification of food, that are as close to nature as possible or minimally processed; provide a good balance of nutrients and/or other bioactive compounds; are appropriately portioned so that you are not having too much or too little of a particular food. This is illustrated in the Seychelles food guide which should form the basis of the food choices we make on a daily basis.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
We have been preaching about this for decades! There is so much evidence about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables but many people are not eating enough of it. Fruits and vegetables are not only rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre but also numerous phytochemicals which gives them their colour, taste and smell and also have protective effects against certain forms of cancer like breast cancer.
Try to include more vegetables on your plate by ensuring that half your plate includes vegetables of different varieties and colour throughout the week. For even more health benefits aim for a minimum of 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
Limit refined grains and free sugar
Despite the fact that there isn’t a direct link between sugar intake and breast cancer, excessive sugar intake can lead to weight gain and obesity over time. When it comes to carbohydrates not only does quantity matter but also the quality!
Sugary products like soft drinks, juices, cakes, pastries, sweets, chocolate and refined grains which are also sources of sugar such as white rice and white bread should be limited in our daily diet. The less we have of it, the better.
Choose wholegrains more often such as oats, barley, bulgur wheat, corn as well as local starches like sweet potatoes, breadfruit and plantains. They are lower in sugar, contain vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals which all have tremendous health benefits.
Choose fish over processed meat
Although fish remains a staple protein source in Seychelles, it is slowly starting to lose its place in many households. With our fast-paced lifestyle and need for convenience, many people turn to processed meat as a quick and convenient choice when preparing their meals.
Processed meat has been found to increase breast cancer risk. Processed meat is meat that has been altered through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation. Some examples of processed meat include ham, frankfurters, sausages, bacon, beef jerky, luncheon meat and corned beef.
The World Health Organisation has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen which are known to cause cancer. The evidence for red meat (think beef, pork, lamb) and its link to increasing breast cancer risk remains inconclusive, however you are encouraged to limit the intake to once per week and to choose leaner cuts of red meat.
Fish remains the preferred protein choice due to its high quality protein and abundance of other nutrients it provides such as vitamins like B12 and D, minerals like Selenium and Iron and also healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids), the latter being higher in oily fish like trevally, bonito and mackerel. Aim to eat fish at least five times per week, with the inclusion of a variety of fish.
Breast cancer screening
Regular breast self-exams, an annual exam by your doctor, and yearly mammograms are important tools in breast cancer detection — especially early detection, when cancers may be more treatable. When was your last breast cancer screening?
Thank you for joining us this week on our Eat for Our Health page. Look us up on social media - Eat for Our Health Seychelles on Facebook.
Please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you’re doing with these ideas, or better still, let us know how we can help you.
Yours in health
The E4OH team