[caption id="attachment_2823" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Dr. Cynara Coomer"][/caption]
I see breast cancer patients nearly every day. I perform surgery to remove cancer from these women and men on a weekly basis. It is what I'm trained to do, in order to save their lives. But the truth of the matter is I wish I was doing it less. I wish fewer men and women had this horrible disease in the first place. It is important to know that there are things you can do to prevent getting breast cancer. I've compiled a list of a few lifestyle changes that can help.
1. Eat a Mediterranean Diet: I've adopted this one myself. I mostly eat foods high in omega-3s like fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Omega 3s help to lower the inflammation in your body and therefore stunt cancer cell growth. I also incorporate antioxidants into my diet whenever possible. Berries, beans and broccoli are some of my favorites and they happen to be very rich in antioxidants. Whole grains are also important and be sure to eat low amounts of red meat. Drinking red wine is recommended because of the poyphenols that comes with your favorite varietals. But stick to one glass a night to reap the real benefits. Year after year, studies come out that people who stick to this type of diet have a lower occurrence of any kind of cancer. And the added bonus is that this diet is good for your heart as well.
2. Take Supplements:If you don't want to eat those essential omega 3s, you can take a supplement. I also recommend taking turmeric pills. An extract in turmeric called curcumin, which gives curry its yellow color, is an amazing anti-inflammatory. My mother makes a mean curry but living across the country from her, I have to get my turmeric fix from a bottle. I also like Vitamin D as a prevention supplement. It's important to get your levels checked especially if you live in a cold climate.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: It has been reported that obesity may amount to as much as 30 percent of major cancers like those of the colon, breast, kidney and esophagus. I may sound like a broken record, but it is paramount to keep your weight in check. Develop healthy eating habits, understand portion control and get out there and exercise. I don't care if you just walk around the block at first. Anything that gets your heart pumping and your legs moving is good enough for me. Eventually you can step it up and start running or playing tennis or whatever it is that you like to do. Amazingly, even weight loss of only 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can provide tremendous health benefits.
4. Stop Smoking:I don't know how many patients I say this to each week. But really it is the worst thing you can do to your body. Smoking can contribute to cancers of the throat, mouth and bladder. But to be fair - there are no studies that have found a direct link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer. However, there have been tests in rodents where they developed breast cancer after being exposed to high doses of the chemicals in mainstream and secondhand smoke. In 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General came out with a study that found there is "suggestive but not sufficient" evidence between smoke and breast cancer. The suggestion is enough for me - stop smoking!
5. Limit Alcohol Intake:I know what you're thinking - she just told me to drink red wine! It's true, red wine is beneficial because of the polyphenols in it, but in moderation. The link between alcohol and breast cancer is one that has been widely studied and reported. A recent University of Oxford study found that even one drink a day increases a woman's risk of getting the disease. It also found that 11 percent of all breast cancers are related to alcohol consumption.
6. Get Screened: I'm very adamant that women should be doing self breast exams monthly. You need to know your lumps and bumps so in case there is a change, you will know about it right away. For information on how to do a self breast exam click here (http://www.cancer.org/docroot/cri/content/cri_2_6x_how_to_perform_a_breast_self_exam_5.asp) Women should also get a yearly mammogram after age 40 - or earlier if you have family history.
7. Know Your Risk: You could do every single thing on this list every day for the rest of your life but if breast cancer is in your genes, you might still get the disease. So I always tell anyone who has a family history to get checked out. About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary. If someone in your family had breast or ovarian cancer - and they tested positive for BRCA mutation - you should be tested immediately. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common cause of hereditary breast cancer.
Dr. Cynara Coomer is an assistant professor of surgery specializing in breast health and breast cancer surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She is a FOX News Health contributor providing medical expertise on a variety of topics in cancer research with a focus on women's health, breast diseases and tips for healthy breasts at any age. If you have a question email her at DrCoomer@foxnews.com