From awareness to action: Steps to prevent breast cancer.

This is the last week of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Through national and local education efforts we should be aware of the impact that breast cancer has on women and their families as well as steps to diagnose and treat this serious condition. We may also have contributed to events from bake sales to road races to support programs that aim to enhance research and treatment for women (and a few men, too) who are dealing with breast cancer.

Now that the pink ribbons are coming down and the NFL players are taking off their pink socks, it is time to focus on something that didn’t get as much attention over the past month: the prevention of breast cancer. This  is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

It turns out that there is a lot that women, especially young women, can do to prevent breast cancer. The good news is that these steps, including not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise, can also reduce the risk of many other types of cancer as well as other serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

The even better news is that these health behaviors can reduce the risk of breast cancer even in women who have a strong family history or other genetic predictors. Furthermore, these lifestyle factors, especially regular exercise, can help women better tolerate treatment and reduce the chance for cancer recurrence.

Unfortunately, breast cancer prevention doesn’t seem to get the same attention as diagnosis and treatment. In fact, a listing of topics on the National Breast Cancer Foundation Breast Cancer Awareness Month web page includes Early Detection, Diagnosis, Stages, Types, Treatment, but not prevention! This isn’t to say that detection and treatment aren’t important, but preventing breast cancer—something that would benefit ALL women—should be part of the conversation.

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