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Think Pink

by Rebecca Yellin

An artwork displays a woman pointing to the breast cancer ribbon on her shirt.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Rebecca Yellin is a senior majoring in nutrition and food science with a concentration in dietetics. Yellin believes there is a disconnection between food and health. As an aspiring Registered Dietitian, she hopes to bridge this gap. She feels qualified to share nutrition information as a nutrition student because she is constantly searching for sound sources, inside and outside the classroom, to improve her knowledge of nutrition and to help guide others. Currently, she works as a Nutrition Assistant at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, is the Montclair State Dietetics Organization president and is a bi-weekly volunteer at CUMAC in Paterson, New Jersey to help alleviate hunger.

Do we have control over our health outcomes? We may be genetically predisposed to developing a disease, meaning that we have an increased likelihood of having a certain disease based on our genetic makeup. However, is that to say there is nothing we can do to either prevent or delay the onset of a disease? Genes don’t control our destiny. There’s something that you can do, and it involves your dietary and lifestyle choices.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with the purpose to help increase awareness, early detection and treatments for breast cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in all women. It is also the second leading cause of deaths from cancer among females.

Males can develop breast cancer, too, but the incidences are much lower. Breast cancer is seen worldwide and the World Health Organization tributes this to the increase in adoption of the Western lifestyle.

According to the American Cancer Society, a risk factor is anything affecting your chances of developing a disease but does not mean you are definitely going to develop it. Breast cancer risk factors include individual behaviors, such as dietary choices and physical activity. Although all women are apt to develop breast cancer, some have higher risks than others by default due to ethnicities, family history or menstruation before 12 years old.

What can you do now to reduce the development of breast cancer later in life, even as a high-risk group? Alter your behaviors, including dietary and lifestyle activities.

There is no miracle nutrient that will prevent breast cancer. Instead, following an overall healthy diet with the inclusion of whole foods and a plethora of nutrients is going to help lower your risk to developing this disease as it can for many other diseases.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated evidence that foods high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients may have a role in protecting against cancer. Foods that include these nutrients are dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts and cabbage, fruits such as berries, whole grains such as oats and bread and legumes such as beans and lentils.

Additionally, the Susan G. Komen foundation states that limiting red and processed meats, saturated and trans fats, deli meats and fried food and eating polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are part of a healthy diet to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also imperative to preventing the development of cancer or decreasing the mortalities and morbidities if the disease has already developed. To maintain a healthy weight, keep up with physical activity. Also, limit high-calorie foods and beverages, especially for those who are already overweight or obese.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends a moderate aerobic activity for 150 minutes, a vigorous aerobic activity for 75 minutes and at least two days of strength training for most adults each week.

Women who consume two to three alcoholic beverages per day have about a 20 percent higher risk compared to those who don’t. The risk increases in correlation to the amount consumed.

The American Cancer Society recommends women have no more than one drink per day. Along with alcohol, cigarettes may also increase the risk. It is well known that cigarettes greatly contribute to the development of cancer; therefore, evidence strongly suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer.

Self-administered breast exams and routine breast cancer screenings are important for all women. Talk to your doctor or visit Montclair State’s Health Center for additional information on how you can stay proactive for your health’s best interest.

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