Breast Cancer is a complex disease and can result from a combination of factors, both genetic and lifestyle. The DNA we were born with; the changes in our genes that come from things like smoking, how much we exercise, our radiation exposure, what we eat and even how much we sleep can influence risk.
Still, some factors appear stronger than others.
According to the American Cancer Society, as much as 75% to 80% of breast cancers may be tied to lifestyle choices and environmental exposures.
(The rest can be traced to genes.)
There is plenty of evidence that women may be able to control a certain amount of their breast-cancer risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise as well as refraining from smoking and from drinking too much.
Eating a diet high in plants and healthy fats like olive oil and low in animal fats, for example, may reduce breast-cancer risk by as much as 60%, and regular exercise–the equivalent of about an hour a day–can lower it anywhere from 25% to 30%. In part that is because a healthy diet and exercise reduce the risk of obesity, a major driver of many kinds of cancer. Experts suspect that body fat behaves like an organ and releases hormones, including estrogen, that can increase breast-cancer risk. That link has led doctors to recommend limiting estrogen therapy–during menopause, for example–to as short a time frame as possible.
But even with the riskiness of some lifestyles now well established, evidence is emerging that other factors appear to increase breast-cancer risk too.
According to a growing number of epidemiological studies, as well as lab and animal research, exposure to various chemicals and toxins in the environment may increase the risk of getting breast cancer. Among the chemicals of concern are BPA.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s and which is used in plastics and tin-can linings–and other hormone-disrupting substances found in household cleaners and personal-care products.
Although there is no direct evidence yet that these chemicals can actually cause cancer in humans, they have been linked to an increase in risk. The FDA continues to study this problem.
What can you do cut down BPA exposure??
Use BPA-free products. Manufacturers are creating more and more BPA-free products. Look for products labeled as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
Avoid heat. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.