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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Can risk be lowered?

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

One in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime — a fact that leaves many women asking, “What can I do to lower my risk?”

Luanne Freund, director at Vintage Park Assisted Living Center, 2250 S. Elm St., said there are two things you can’t control: being a woman and getting older.

“Two out of three women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when the cancer is discovered,” she said. “However, there are some things you can do to try to improve your odds of avoiding this disease.

“First, lose the extra weight because being overweight or obese raises your breast cancer risk after menopause,” she said.

“Second, exercise regularly. The American Cancer Society believes 45 to 60 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise five days a week keeps estrogen and other hormone levels in check and helps reduce fatty tissue.”

Freund also recommended cutting back on — or cutting out altogether — alcohol. There is a clear connection between alcohol use and an elevated risk of breast cancer. For those who enjoy a social cocktail now and then, limit yourself to only one drink. The International Agency for Research on Cancer found that the equivalent of two drinks a day might boost your risk by 21 percent.

Freund also cautioned women to be careful about their decision to use hormonal therapy for menopause. “One type of hormone replacement therapy that combines the hormones estrogen and progesterone appears to increase the risk of breast cancer in some women, especially those who use the hormones for several years,” she said.

Oral contraceptives also can increase your risk, but after not taking them for 10 years your risk is back down to average.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at

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