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10 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Getting Breast Cancer

by Staness Jonekos, The Breast Chek Kit supporter and co-author of The Menopause Makeover

Why don’t most women perform monthly breast exams? I confess, I have done three self-breast exams in my entire life! Considering I have spent a lifetime on birth control pills to manage endometriosis and ovarian cysts, and now on post menopause hormone therapy, I should be doing monthly breast exams, but I don’t – why?

Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing – “Don’t touch yourself” was the message from my Sunday catechism teacher. Maybe it was the social messages I got from the media – boobs are for babies and hubbies.

Feeling embarrassed that I don’t do monthly breast self-exams, I decided to talk with other women. I interviewed 100 women, ages 25 to 75. My first question, “Do you perform monthly breast self-exams?” I was shocked that 92 percent of these women said, “No.” I was not alone.

Curious, I asked, “Why not?” The majority of women admitted that they, too, did not feel comfortable touching their breasts. The second reason was the fear of finding something scary, a lump – breast cancer.

Breasts have many connotations: sexuality, femininity, and motherhood. We do lots of things to our breasts: strap them into brassieres, augment their size, pierce them, and use them to get attention. I actually hide mine. I don’t like people looking at them. I would rather have them look at my face. Perhaps residual Catholic fear that showing my cleavage would conjure up some form of trouble, I dress around my 34DDs with higher necklines.

I am not the only one with a story about my breasts. I have many friends who have had “boob jobs.” Most of them had breast augmentation in their 20s and 30s. They claimed it was for their self-esteem, but most finally admitted they loved the attention. Many altered their breasts after nursing. The remainder decided to have their boobs lifted after menopause in an effort to hold onto their youth. That’s a lot of attention and money spent on an area of the body most of us don’t personally touch!

My husband loves my breasts. I know it is time for me to love them too. I looked at them in the mirror just this morning. At 52 my boobs have shifted four inches south of their origins. I cupped them and held them up – unfortunately they did not look like they did in the beginning. I bent over and looked at the effects of gravity – unfortunately they did not look like they did in the beginning. Then I jumped up and down, and fortunately I felt better at the humor of actually looking at my breast move naturally after being strapped in most of the day. It was an interesting moment. Funny, curious, and insightful, and then it happened. I just stared at them without judgment and realized how beautiful they are, and how lucky I am that they are healthy.

Over ten years ago, my dear friend Leslie died of breast cancer. She decided to bypass her yearly check-up for financial reasons, and it cost Leslie her life. Leslie’s husband and two children lost the center of their universe to breast cancer, and I lost a friend. I remember weeks before her death, she grabbed my hand that was nervously knitting to avoid the inevitable truth that she was dying, and drew me near. She whispered, with the little energy she had, “Never miss your yearly check-up, I am dying an angry woman because I did.” I still weep over Leslie’s death. She was only in her 40s.

I have seven other friends who had breast lumps that were discovered during their annual check-ups. Two of those seven friends had stage 2 and 3 cancer but they caught it early enough and were able to manage it. I am happy to report they are now cancer free. The others did not have cancer. Leslie was right, early detection can save lives.

According to the American Cancer Society, “Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.” About 1 out of every 7 women will get breast cancer over a 90-year life span. All women are at risk for breast cancer.

This year about 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. About 40,000 moms, daughters, sisters, granddaughters and best friends that will die from breast cancer this year.

The American Cancer Society states, “Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment.”

The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 35 (about 3%). At this time there are over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 20-30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer.

About 70-80% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

There are ways to reduce your risk.

What can you do to lower your risk of getting breast cancer?

1. Maintain an ideal weight: The chance of developing breast cancer after menopause is higher in women who are overweight or obese.
2. Exercise: The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45-60 minutes of physical exercise 5 or more days a week.
3. Alcohol consumption: Alcohol can limit your liver’s ability to control blood levels of the hormone estrogen, which in turn can increase risk. The Harvard Nurses’ Health study, along with several others, has shown that consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can increase breast cancer risk by as much as 20-25 percent.
4. Exposure to estrogen: The female hormone estrogen stimulates breast cell growth, so exposure to estrogen over long periods of time, without breaks, can increase the risk of breast cancer.
5. Oral contraceptive use: Recent use may slightly increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
6. Fruits and vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, berries and cherries are all breast cancer fighters.
7. High glycemic carbohydrates: Eat low to medium glycemic foods and avoid white rice, white potatoes, and sugar products, because these foods may trigger hormonal changes that promote cellular growth in breast tissue. Eat whole grains and legumes.
8. Smoking: Smoking is associated with an increase in breast cancer risk, and in the risk of other cancers.
9. Stress and anxiety: There is no clear proof that stress and anxiety can increase breast cancer risk, but some research suggests that practicing yoga, prayer, and meditation to manage stress can strengthen the immune system.
10. Perform monthly breast self-exams, get routine screenings and work closely with your healthcare provider.

We cannot control our gender, age, race, or family history of breast cancer, but early detection can save lives. Performing a monthly breast self-exam is something you can control.

Nearly 70% of all breast cancers are found through self-exams, and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98%.

Dr. Wendy Klein, leading women’s health expert and co-author of The Menopause Makeover says, “Discuss your breast self-exam technique with your healthcare provider, and report any asymmetrical changes in your breast right away. Regular breast self-exams in conjunction with other screening methods, working closely with your doctor, are simple common sense for good breast health.”

Today I celebrate my health by lowering my breast cancer risk factors. Today I honor my breast health empowered. Today I do a breast self-exam.

How to do a breast self-exam:

What is your risk of getting breast cancer?

Click here for the National Cancer Institutes Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool:


Jonekos, S. and W. Klein.  The Menopause Makeover.  Ontario, Canada: Harlequin Enterprises; 2009. American Cancer Society: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms,“Breast awareness and self exam.” 02 October  2010 <

Recycle Bras and Support Breast Cancer Awareness

Recycle Your Bra This October to Support Breast Cancer Awareness
By Bridgette Meinhold

bra recyclin  g, eco-friendly bras, sustainable bras, underwear recycling, sustainable underwear, eco-friendly underwear, Curves, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, ethical fashion

We all have them: ill-fitting, uncomfortable, or just plain unflattering bras that sit in the back of our drawer collecting lint. Instead of keeping those over-the-shoulder boulder holders mothballed, or worse, consigning them to the dumpster, consider “recycling” them to raise money for breast cancer research. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, several nonprofits around the world are collecting your unwanted underwires to sell or donate to women in need. Millions of women across the globe are going commando not by choice but because they can’t afford proper support garments, so consider this a two-for- one opportunity—you help a well-endowed sister feel her best and you give the search for a cure a much-needed boost.

Photo by Zoom Zoom


In the U.S., you can donate your unwanted bras to The Bra Recyclers, a division of Bosom Buddy Recycling, based out of Arizona. The charity collects and sorts the bras, then ships them off to partner locations nationwide in support of breast cancer survivors and women in transitional shelters. Since October 2008, The Bra Recyclers has collected tens of thousands of bras, backing 23 organizations across the country. And when you donate your unmentionables this month, you’ll be automatically entered to win great prizes, including gift cards from American Express and intimate-apparel companies.

Millions of women across the globe go commando not by choice but because they can’t afford proper support garments.

For would-be bra donors in the U.K. and Australia, a number of retailers and organizations have partnered with BCR Global Textiles, a family-run outfit that recycles and reuses textiles. BreastTalk, Butterfly Bras, Curves of Ireland, and Down Under-based Berlei are all collecting your unwanted bras and funneling them through a BCR Textiles program.

For every kilo of skivvies collected, BCR donates money to breast cancer charities like the Breast Cancer Campaign. The bras are then sold to small independent retailers in third-world countries to shore up the economy while providing low-cost foundation wear.

If you’re planing on organizing a clothing-swap party this month, ask your girlfriends to bring their clean, good-condition bras so you can make a joint donation. Bra recyclers are looking for all manner of bra sizes and shapes, including maternity, nursing, post-surgery, sports, and plus sizes.


+ The Bra Recyclers


+ Bra Appeal

+ Butterfly Bras

+ Curves Ireland


+ Brelei Bra

Article taken from Ecouterre –
URL to article:


October 11, 2010, 11:00 am

Pink Ribbon Fatigue

Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Another Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us, which will mean lots of pink ribbons.

The pink ribbon has been a spectacular success in terms of bringing recognition and funding to the breast cancer cause. But now there is a growing impatience about what some critics have termed “pink ribbon culture.” Medical sociologist Gayle A. Sulik, author of the new book “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health” (Oxford University Press), calls it “the rise of pink October.”

“Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television and other entertainment venues,” she writes on her Web site. “The pervasiveness of the pink ribbon campaign leads many people to believe that the fight against breast cancer is progressing, when in truth it’s barely begun.”

The National Breast Cancer Coalition, a highly visible activist group based in Washington, D.C., has also taken a swipe at pink culture as it tries to reconfigure breast cancer activism through a highly ambitious plan to eradicate the disease by 2020. “Peel back the pink,” the group urges its advocates, “and go beyond awareness into action to end breast cancer.”

So what’s a breast cancer survivor, or an interested citizen, supposed to think when encountering the ubiquitous pink ribbons on everything from yogurt to bathrobes? It helps to know a little of the history of breast cancer activism.

The first breast cancer activists were a series of women in the early and mid-1970s who challenged the routine use of the radical mastectomy, a highly disfiguring operation that involved removal of both the affected breast and the nearby chest wall muscles, for treating breast cancer. Building on the work of a few renegade surgeons plus the era’s feminism, these women gradually got the medical profession to rethink radical surgery. Data eventually showed that smaller operations, such as lumpectomies, accompanied by local radiation were equally effective.

Among the most persistent and effective activists was Rose Kushner, a breast cancer survivor who took on not only the radical mastectomy but also the practice in which doctors decided whether or not to remove cancerous breasts while women were under anesthesia, effectively silenced.

But even Ms. Kushner knew the next steps in breast cancer activism would be even harder. Beginning in the 1980s, she forged alliances with prominent physician-researchers in the field, such as Bernard Fisher. She also informally reviewed grant applications for the National Cancer Institute, a momentous acknowledgment by a scientific organization about the value of lay opinion. Ms. Kushner, who had taken the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen to treat her breast cancer but who ultimately died of the disease in 1990, even forged a working relationship with Imperial Chemical Industries, the manufacturer of the drug. The company would later merge with the Zeneca Group to form a huge drug conglomerate, AstraZeneca.

This latter connection is particularly telling, as the AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation is now the major sponsor of the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink activities are hardly restricted to October, but they are particularly prominent during the month: billboards promoting breast cancer awareness; media coverage of the latest advances in breast cancer detection and treatment; and races, walks, climbs and other events for breast cancer survivors that provide emotional uplift, a sense of community and an opportunity to raise money for the cause.

So how can the pink ribbon be objectionable? Among the first salvos against the pink ribbon was a 2001 article in Harper’s magazine entitled “Welcome to Cancerland,” written by the well-known feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich. Herself a breast cancer patient, Ms. Ehrenreich delivered a scathing attack on the kitsch and sentimentality that she believed pervaded breast cancer activism.

Others added to Ms. Ehrenreich’s arguments, notably the San Francisco-based group Breast Cancer Action, which in 2002 initiated a “Think Before You Pink” campaign. The organization’s main concern was that pharmaceutical companies that manufactured breast cancer treatments, plus other industries that promoted the pink ribbon for publicity purposes, produced toxic waste that poisoned the earth — and actually promoted breast cancer. Rather than being used to study the causes of breast cancer and how to prevent the disease, a large proportion of pink money, the group argued, has been used to pay for local screening and treatment programs and research into new, expensive biological agents that have had little impact on women’s survival from breast cancer.

The head of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Fran Visco, in a recent e-mail to her membership, called for a “solution,” such as the development of a breast cancer vaccine, rather than just more hope. “We have to stop celebrating breast cancer awareness months and begin pushing for the end,” she wrote.

In “Pink Ribbon Blues,” Ms. Sulik offers three main objections to the pink ribbon. First, she worries that pink ribbon campaigns impose a model of optimism and uplift on women with breast cancer, although many such women actually feel cynicism, anger and similar emotions.

And like Ms. Ehrenreich, Ms. Sulik worries that the color pink reinforces stereotypical notions of gender — for example, that recovery from breast cancer necessarily entails having breast reconstruction, wearing makeup and “restoring the feminine body.”

Finally, Ms. Sulik closely examines what she calls the “financial incentives that keep the war on breast cancer profitable.” She reports that the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which annually sponsors over 125 annual Races for the Cure and more than a dozen three-day, 60-mile walks, has close to 200 corporate partners, including many drug companies. These associations, she warns, are a potential conflict of interest.

So should women start boycotting these very corporate events, which Ms. Sulik admits raise billions of dollars each year, and in which participants receive make-up and other pink-ribbon products in honor of their achievements? I’m not so sure. It is hard not be moved by these types of gatherings, in which survivors demonstrate their perseverance, altruism and endurance.

But one does hope that books like “Pink Ribbon Blues” and campaigns like Breast Cancer 2020 encourage all of us to examine the facts anew. Over 40,000 women still die from breast cancer annually in the United States, and strategies for preventing the disease have received inadequate attention and funding.

It is great to celebrate one’s survivorship from breast cancer, but it would be better not to have to be a survivor in the first place.

Barron H. Lerner, a physician and medical historian at Columbia University Medical Center, is the author of “The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America.”