Tag Archives: breast cancer

Not Always Pink: Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with it’s pink-washed campaigns and numerous pink products, is mainly associated with women, but men can get breast cancer too. While rare, men do develop breast cancer, and the topic is often taboo and rarely discussed. This lack of awareness often means men who develop symptoms may not recognize them or associate them with breast cancer, and they may be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is not as treatable.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., men are born with some breast cells and tissue. And although men don’t develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. It is much less common, with less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in males, and only one in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.

Because breast cancer awareness for males is less, and many men who do develop symptoms delay seeking treatment, men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. Unlike women who are recommended to get annual mammograms and do regular self-breast exams, men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer, so when it is detected, it’s usually at a much more advanced stage. Essentially, most men just don’t think they can get it.

Risk Factors in Men

There are certain risk factors that may make a man more likely to develop breast cancer:

  • Older age. Just as in women, risk increases as a man ages. The average age of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is 68.
  • High estrogen levels. Both normal and abnormal breast cell growth is stimulated by estrogen. Men can have higher levels of the hormone due to a variety of reasons such as medications, being overweight or obese, environmental exposure to estrogen (i.e. pesticides like DDT), high alcohol consumption, and having liver disease.
  • Family history or genetic mutations. Just as the case with women, if there’s a family history of other men in the family having breast cancer, risks are greater. Also, if men carry the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, they are at an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure. Men who have been treated for other cancers with radiation, especially to the chest, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men can be similar to those for women, but men may not associate these changes with cancer. This causes a delay in diagnosis. It’s important that men recognize that any changes to their breasts should always be checked by their physicians.

Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men Include the following:

  • a hard lump in the breast that can be felt
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

With early diagnosis, treatment for breast cancer in men can be very successful. More awareness of breast cancer in men is needed so that men recognize any potential symptoms earlier and seek treatment when cancer is at a much more treatable stage.

Nutrition’s Role in Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk about prevention!

While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, nutrition can play a role in lowering your risk and improving your overall health.

Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Good Nutrition.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your breast cancer risk as well as your risks for other diseases.  According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

Extra weight can increase estrogen in your body, and excess estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.  Additionally, the location of where you carry extra weight also matters. Women who tend to carry extra weight in their midsection may be at a higher risk than women who carry their extra weight around their hips or thighs.

Eat More Veggies, Less Meat.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risks.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals—highly-reactive and unstable molecules that have the potential to harm cells. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E—all of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet high in fiber has also been found to lower cancer risk. And once again, the best sources for this nutrient are unprocessed, plant-based foods. In turn, a high-fiber diet may help you lower your overall caloric intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which, as mentioned above, is crucial in reducing your overall breast cancer risk.

Superfoods!

While no specific food can prevent breast cancer, there are some foods that contain more antioxidants and other anti-cancer properties such as fiber, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should make them a regular part of your diet to help lower your breast cancer risk.

The following are some great examples of  superfoods:

  • Green Tea
  • Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Plums, peaches, avocados
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
  • Vegetables rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apricots, etc.)
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, cold liver oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and nut oils)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, etc.)

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diet is only one part of the picture. Other factors like genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices also play a role in your breast cancer risk. Discuss your individual risks with your doctor and work with him or her in developing a personalized plan to lower your risk.

Move More, Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk.

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re focusing on prevention. And one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing breast cancer is regular exercise. In fact, multiple studies have shown that exercise is the No. 1 lifestyle change you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, and also to reduce your chances of recurrence if you’ve already been diagnosed.

According to the Maurer Foundation, exercise can help reduce your breast cancer risk in several ways:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy weight. When you are at a healthy weight for your body, you naturally have less fat. This is important because fat cells store high levels of estrogen, and higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.  A study found that postmenopausal women who regularly exercised for a year had lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, compared to women who didn’t exercise. Lower levels of estradiol in the body can reduce breast cancer risk.
  • It boosts your immune system.  Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and help your body to better fight off infections and diseases as well as helping to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • It helps with stress relief and mood. People who are active report better moods and less anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can help you better manage the stress in your life, which is important in lowering your risk, as too much stress has been shown to speed up cancer’s progression.

How Much Is Enough?

Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but you don’t need to work out for hours every day to reap the benefits and lower your breast cancer risk. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, such as walking, cycling, or gardening  has been shown to significantly reduce your risk, according to one study.  A  Women’s Health Initiative study concluded that just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking has been shown to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent. If you increase your walking program to 10 hours or more per week, you can lower your breast cancer risk even more.

For those who prefer higher-intensity workouts, the recommendations are 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week. Activities such as running, high-impact aerobics, swimming, or sports such as soccer or basketball are some examples of higher-intensity exercise.

Preventing Cancer Recurrence

If you’ve already had a breast cancer diagnosis and have undergone treatment, exercise can also be extremely beneficial in preventing the cancer from returning.  A 2017 study on lifestyle choices and their impact on the chances of cancer recurring in women who’ve previously had breast cancer found that of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

According to the study, women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. Conversely, women who incorporated at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week (or 75 minutes per week of higher-intensity exercise) significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer returning and of death from breast cancer.

In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence, exercise can improve mood, improve body image, increase energy, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, reduce anxiety and stress, improve physical condition, and improve overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Researchers did note that some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive and may recur despite lifestyle changes.