Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, with one in seven Australian women developing breast cancer by their 85th birthday. Through cancer research, prevention and screening programs, Cancer Council SA is working hard every day to help South Australian women, prevent, detect and live beyond breast cancer.
Thanks to your support, Cancer Council SA was able to fund the work of Dr Jean Winter to reduce the impact of breast cancer.
Dr Winter’s research focused on a ground-breaking new treatment strategy for breast cancer, which had the aim of halting tumour growth by modifying abnormal hormonal pathways in the tissue.
This strategy showed strong potential to increase the lifespan of breast cancer patients who develop resistance to hormone deprivation therapies.
Through the generous donations of Cancer Council supporters just like you, I was able to work towards improving treatment outcomes for the more than 1,550 South Australian women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone.
As a breast cancer researcher, knowing that you have the potential to make a real difference to those affected by breast cancer is a true motivator. It’s one of the reasons why I get out of bed every morning and why I love my job.
Funding from Cancer Council SA—made possible because of the generosity of people like you—was vital in allowing me to translate my knowledge into ideas, test what treatments work in the lab, and ultimately, put it into practice.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, but did you know that there are ways to reduce your risk? By making some simple lifestyle changes, being breast aware and participating in screening, women of all ages can lower their risk of and prevent breast cancer.
In most people, the exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but there are a number of factors that play a role in breast cancer risk. Some of these factors are modifiable—such as lifestyle choices—and others are non-modifiable—such as age, sex, family history and genetics.
Here are three lifestyle factors that have been shown to reduce breast cancer risk:
- Being physically active – Being physically active reduces breast cancer risk in two ways—indirectly by helping women to maintain a healthy weight, and directly by the physical effects that the exercise has on our body, regardless of body composition. To reduce your breast cancer risk, aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity on five or more days per week. The more you do, the lower the risk of breast cancer. Moderate activities include brisk walking, medium-paced swimming or cycling. Vigorous activities include sports like football, squash, netball and basketball, as well as activities such as aerobics, circuit training, jogging and fast cycling.
- Maintaining a healthy weight – There is strong evidence that carrying excess body weight increases the risk of developing post-menopausal breast cancer. In particular, excess weight around the abdomen and waist carries a greater risk than weight carried on the hips and thighs. To see if your weight is putting you at risk, check your waist circumference. Maintaining a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and drink as well as how physically active you are. Whilst maintaining a healthy weight is the long-term goal, sometimes the best place to begin is to focus on preventing any weight gain first.
- Avoiding or limiting alcohol – Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer is dose dependent. While even light levels of consumption are associated with breast cancer risk, the risk increases the more you drink. Alcohol is also high in calories and so are some of the mixers used to make some alcoholic drinks. Regular alcohol consumption can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, so it can also indirectly increase your breast cancer risk. To reduce your risk of alcohol related cancer, limit your intake of alcohol or—better still—avoid it all together.
Breast Cancer Screening
If detected early, the five-year survival rates for breast cancer is the highest of all cancers.
Every woman aged 50–74 is eligible for free two-yearly screening mammograms through BreastScreen SA. It takes just 10 minutes, and you can book by calling BreastScreen SA on 13 20 50.
Women aged 40–49 and 75 and older may also be eligible for free screening mammograms.
Cancer Council Prevention and Advocacy Manager Christine Morris encouraged all South Australian women know their body and be breast aware.
“Women of all ages are encouraged to stay breast aware—regularly checking their own bodies for any signs of changes. To do this effectively, you need to know what’s normal for you, and see your GP if you notice any changes. Screening mammograms and self-checks don’t take much of your time, but they could save your life.”
For more information about breast cancer and how to cut your risk contact Cancer Council’s Nurses on 13 11 20.