1. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
If you’re drinking for your health, think again. What you’re doing is raising your risk of seven cancers, including liver cancer. One drink a day increases your chances of developing breast cancer specifically by as much as 10 per cent. Two drinks and you double it by up to 20 per cent.
“A lot of women are shocked by that,” says Dr. Julian Kim, a radiation oncologist with CancerCare Manitoba in Winnipeg. “They drink a glass of wine to relax, and they think they’re getting away scot-free.” Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen, which, like other hormones, delivers messages that control cell division in the body. Increased lifetime estrogen exposure is associated with breast cancer. That’s why getting your first period before age 12 and reaching menopause after 55 are risk factors.
Plus, when we metabolize alcohol, it’s converted into acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product that can damage DNA and interfere with our ability to repair it. “There is no safe amount women can drink without increasing their risk of breast cancer,” says Brown. “However, the women who drink the most alcohol are at the greatest risk.”
When it comes to another common vice, smoking, the news is surprising. Although smoking-related illnesses cause about 100 deaths a day in Canada and may be implicated in some breast cancers, “smoking is not as strong a risk factor for breast cancer as it is for other cancers,” notes Shawn Chirrey, senior manager of health promotion for the Canadian Cancer Society in Toronto.
Bonus: What’s Your Addiction Risk?