The ABCs Of Breast Cancer Prevention

From apples to X-rays, here's what you need to know to prevent this deadly disease.

A: APPLES And broccoli, and whole grains, and fish, and all the other things that make up a healthy, low-fat diet. A report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research claims that following a proper diet, along with staying physically active and maintaining a normal body mass index (BMI), could reduce all cancer rates by 30 percent to 40 percent.

B: BUTT, CIGARETTE Evidence of a direct link between smoking and breast cancer is mixed. Active smoking and passive smoke inhalation, however, are known to cause at least 10 other types of cancer, not to mention heart disease, stroke, and bad teeth. So if you smoke, quit. Ask your doctor for help choosing a prescription or over-the-counter medicine to make quitting easier. 

B: BUTT, YOURS We don’t mean to be rude, but obesity is linked to increased breast cancer risk, especially in postmenopausal women. Work with your doctor to control your weight. (See also HIKE, TAKE A.)

C: CHARDONNAY Or beer, or single malt scotch—whatever your alcoholic drink of choice, keep drinking moderate. Limit your alcohol consumption or don’t drink at all. Even one or two drinks a day appear to increase breast cancer risk.

D: DOCTOR VISITS The American Cancer Society (ACS) says you should have a doctor examine your breasts every three years if you’re between ages 20 and 39, and annually if you’re 40 or older. The ACS guidelines advise you to discuss your personal risk factors, including the simple fact that you are growing older. And if your doctor determines that you are at increased risk for the disease, take the preventive steps listed here even more seriously. 

H: HIKE, TAKE A A brisk, half-hour daily walk significantly reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, reports the massive Women’s Health Initiative study of women ages 50 to 79. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a hike. Any exercise—done for 30 minutes a day most days of the week—can help reduce cancer risk.

M: MAMMOGRAM The ACS and other major health organizations continue to recommend regular screening mammograms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that mammography reduces mortality rates by perhaps 25 percent over 10 years.

S: SELF-EXAM Over the last four or five years, most major health organizations have taken a new look at the value of breast self-exams (BSEs). Major studies have found little or no connection between self-exams and reduced death rates. As a result, these health groups have put self-exams in the optional category. It’s OK for women to choose not to do BSEs or to do them occasionally. However, if you do find anything unusual, report it to your doctor immediately.

X: X-RAY That’s what a mammogram is. And like most X-rays, it can be uncomfortable. To make yours less so, schedule your mammogram for the week after your period. Your breasts will be less tender then. And don’t wear deodorant, powder, or lotion under your arms or on your breasts. These can show up as spots on the X-ray that might be confused for cancer.

How GMC Can Help

If it's time for your annual mammogram, don't put it off. Schedule an appointment by calling 678-312-3444. Gwinnett Medical Center offers mammography services at our state-of-the-art facilities in Lawrenceville, Duluth and Hamilton Mill, and via our mobile mammography unit. Learn more at

The Cancer Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center is accredited by the Commission on Cancer, and offers the areas top oncologist, radiologist and cancer treatment experts. Learn more at


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