October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, with approximately 1400 new cases detected yearly in Singapore. This accounts for a third of all cancers in Singaporean women. The thing is: The likelihood of survival and even cure is high with early detection and treatment. But many ladies still think that they do not need a formal mammogram screening as they feel in the pink of health, thus missing out on their chances on getting diagnosed in the early stages when it may not be palpable by hand or show any visible skin changes.

Other than booking an appointment for your regular breast screening, arm yourself with these vital facts, including its modifiable risk factors and ways to ward off the big ‘C’:


STAY SLIM:   Besides genetics, obesity increases the risk of developing breast cancer as well, particularly in post-menopausal women. Being obese at the time of breast cancer diagnosis was also associated with poorer survival and higher risk of recurrence.

Maintain a healthy weight by fuelling up right and staying physically active. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking or swimming), or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (such as running), in addition to strength training exercises at least twice a week for most healthy adults.


TO SOY, OR NOT TO SOY:   One of the most controversial risk factor in the world of breast cancer is the influence about soy phyto-estrogen on breast cancer. Some are concerned that soy products may stimulate breast tissue and cause cancer, while other studies indicate that it provides antioxidants known to prevent several cancers, including breast cancer itself. One thing is certain, soy and its derivatives (tofu, soy milk, tempeh) present a good source of protein and unsaturated fat as an alternative to meat. That being said, some studies indicate that it might be prudent for postmenopausal ladies or women with breast cancer or who are in remission to consume soy products in moderation.


LIMIT THE DRINKS:   Booze boosts your risk of breast cancer, according to recent research by The National Cancer Institute in 2012. It supports the findings of an earlier large-scale study involving 100,000 women which found that consumption of three to six alcoholic drinks per week carried a 15 percent increased risk of breast cancer.


BREAST GIFT EVER:   Giving breast milk to your child is not only one of the best things you can do for your baby, nursing may actually help reduce your risk of breast cancer too. In fact, one study found that an estimated 25,000 breast cancers could be prevented in developed countries if women breastfed each child for six months longer.


EAT TO FIGHT CANCER:   There is growing evidence that eating the right foods can play a role in breast cancer prevention. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich oily fish (aim for about 3 servings of mackerel, sardines, trout or salmon a week), flaxseeds and walnuts have all been linked to a lower incidence of breast cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables (five 80g portion a day), especially broccoli sprouts, are anti-cancer powerhouses with sulforaphane that actually helps the body fight tumours.

Besides sipping on antioxidant-packed green tea on a regular basis, do stock up on fresh berries in season as well – berries have powerful anthocyanins and ellagic acid antioxidants, which have been shown in cell culture studies to protect healthy cells from free radical damage and to slow the growth of various cancers (including breast, mouth, colon and prostate cancer).


– By Libby Tanada


*This article has been selected Article of the Month for Oct 2012*