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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Mathes


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Vegetarian Awareness month, a perfect combination since following a plant based diet can decrease your risk of breast cancer (all cancers). Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, aside from skin cancer.  Every year 245,000 women are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer, 10% of those diagnosed are women under the age of 45.  Breast cancer can occur in men, 1% occurs in men.  With 40,000 people mostly women dying from breast cancer every year, lifestyle change to decrease risk and early detection strategies are important a for every woman to follow.

Key things to decrease risk:

  • Follow a plant based diet like a Vegetarian, Vegan, DASH, Mediterranean or Pescatarian diet. Vegetarian diets are high in whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, plant based proteins including and including either dairy and/or eggs.  The Vegan diet doesn’t  include animal products at all. Mediterranean, Pescatarian and DASH have a higher emphasis on whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and oils, but include lean proteins in the diet unlike Vegan and Vegetarian diets with pescatarian including fish only as it’s lean protein source.   These diets have shown in long term studies across the board to decrease risk of all cause mortality,  meaning all diseases like; all cancers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension to name a few metabolic diseases.

  • Control your weight. Stay a healthy weight, or lose weight to reach a healthy weight

  • Physical activity of at least 150 minutes per week can help decrease risk

  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol is a biological causation of breast cancer, drinking 2 drinks or more can double the relative risk.  Even drinking small amounts can increase the risk

  • Don’t smoke, there is a large correlation in premenopausal women

  • Breastfeeding can reduce your risk later on

  • Getting enough sleep 7-8 hours/night has shown to help reduce risk as well

Symptoms of breast cancer:

  • Pain in any area of the breast

  • Any change in size or shape of the breast

  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood

  • A new lump in the breast or underarm

If you notice any of these symptoms call your doctor immediately and get checked out right away. One of the most important tools of detection is to do monthly self examinations.  Learning how to do this properly  will help you detect any changes in your breasts and potentially catch the cancer early on when it’s easier to treat before symptoms appear.  Follow this link to learn how to do proper monthly exams:

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