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10 tips for preventing breast cancer

Breast-cancer-fundIt’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.

But one group, the Breast Cancer Fund, has a different approach.

Since one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s working to shift the conversation from awareness to prevention.

The foundation offers the following tips, developed from scientific research, to help you turn awareness into action to prevent the disease:

1. Lower your exposure to medical radiation.

Although X-rays and CT scans can give critical information for diagnosing medical problems, exposure to this kind of radiation is the longest and most firmly established environmental cause of breast cancer. Keep a record of your medical radiation exposure and discuss with your medical care team whether or not the tests are necessary and whether there may be alternative tests that don’t use radiation, such as an MRI or ultrasound.

2. Choose hormone-free meat, if you eat meat.

The synthetic growth hormone Zeranol is one of the most widely used chemicals in the U.S. beef industry, even though it’s been banned in the European Union since 1989. It mimics estrogen and studies have shown cancer cells exposed to Zeranol-treated beef show significant increases in cancer growth.

3. Choose organic fruits and veggies – avoid pesticides.

Pesticides destroy pests – and they’re harmful to human health as well. Studies show that some herbicides and pesticides stimulate growth of breast cancer cells or cause mammary cancer in rats. Look for certified organic produce, which is grown without toxic pesticides and herbicides.

4. Choose cleaning products that tell you what’s in them…or make your own.

Strong-smelling window cleaners and scouring powders don’t list ingredients on their labels. That’s because no law requires manufacturers to do so, even though these products often contain chemicals linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems. Look for products made by companies that voluntarily disclose ingredients, or learn how to make your own. Baking soda and vinegar are effective cleaners.

7. Throw away your Teflon pots and pans.

Nonstick pans and stain-resistant materials can contain toxic perfluorinated chemicals. These endocrine disruptors have been associated with delayed menstruation, later breast development, and increased incidence of breast cancer. Alternatives include anodized aluminum, stainless steel or cast iron.

6. Avoid toxic kids PJs.

Even though some flame retardants have been phased out of kids pajamas, these harmful ingredients have been replaced with other dangerous chemicals. Stay away from PJs labeled “flame resistant,” and pick snug-fitting alternatives that provide fire safety without toxic chemicals.

7. Don’t be fooled by “natural” claims on beauty products.

The beauty industry is virtually unregulated in the United States, and many toxic chemicals can be found in the most common of makeup, shampoos, lotions, and other personal care products. A claim of “organic” or “natural ingredients” still leaves plenty of room for harmful ingredients.

8. Avoid canned foods.

While the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A has been banned from baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging, it’s still widely used to line food cans. More than 300 laboratory and human studies have linked low levels of BPA exposure to health problems, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty, and diabetes. Even tiny amounts have been shown to disrupt normal prenatal development. Avoid canned foods and learn more.

9. Find safe ways to fight germs.

Triclosan was developed as a surgical scrub for medical professionals, but in recent years it’s been added to many consumer products, from kitchen cutting boards to shoes. Triclosan in cosmetics, antibacterial soaps, and body washes may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Endocrine disruption, allergies, and organ system toxicity are among the health concerns associated with this widely used chemical.

10. Know your plastics.

Plastic is everywhere – it’s used in consumer products and packaging of all kinds, but there are serious risks to human health and the environment from its widespread use. Vinyl Chloride was one of the first chemicals designated a known human carcinogen. However, it’s still used in food packaging, medical products, appliances, cars, and more. Avoid plastics that contain phthalates, especially polyvinyl chloride, which often has the recycling code 3. More tips for protecting yourself and your family from plastics can be found here. 

Read more about the science behind these tips in the Clear Science Section of the foundation’s website, which offers references for the growing amount of research on this issue. Get more tips in the foundation’s Reduce Your Risk section.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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