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Breast Cancer and Diabetes

For years, scientists have looked at a possible link between breast cancer and diabetes. It has been suggested that high levels of insulin may increase the risk of breast cancer. However, many factors, such as obesity increase the risk for both breast cancer and diabetes, so it has been difficult for scientists to discover whether diabetes itself is the issue. Still, diabetes research shows that women with diabetes have a 20% higher risk of breast cancer than women without diabetes.

Breast Cancer Prevention for Women with Diabetes

One recent study suggests that high blood sugar increases the risk of breast cancer even among pre-menopausal women. Significant weight gain (more than 55 pounds since age 18, or 22 pounds after menopause) can also increase risk of breast cancer, even in women without diabetes. It is important that women control blood sugar levels, eat right and maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives.

General Breast Cancer Prevention Tips

Breast cancer is most effectively treated when it is detected early. The American Cancer Society recommends taking the following preventative measures to help ensure good breast health:

• Begin having annual mammograms at age 40.
• Your doctor should be performing a clinical breast examination at your regular health examination or gynecological visit. For women between the ages of 20 and 39, this breast examination should be performed every three years; women 40 and older should have a clinical breast examination every year.
• Women as young as age 20 should perform monthly breast self-examinations to familiarize themselves with the normal feel of their breast tissue. This can help you identify changes or problems. It is important to report any changes to your doctor right away.

A family history of breast cancer can increase your risk of the disease (however, many women who develop breast cancer have no family history). If close relatives have had breast cancer or if you have survived breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the benefits of additional screening and tests like mammography, breast ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (also known as MRI).

The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following tips, which are especially important if you have a family history of breast cancer and diabetes, to help prevent diabetes:

• Lose extra weight: Diabetes is highly associated with obesity. If you carry extra weight, try to lose it as diabetes prevention hinges on weight loss.
• Skip fad diets: low-carb, low-fat and high protein diets work only for the short term and provide no value in long-term weight maintenance.
• Eat plenty of fiber: fiber improves blood sugar control.
• Swap white bread and refined flour breads with whole grains: at least half of your daily intake of grains should come from whole grains. An added benefit - it tastes better!
• Make it a team effort! The American Diabetes Association recommends that everyone over 45 get regular blood glucose screenings.
• Lose the sedentary lifestyle: regular exercise not only prevents weight gain, it helps maintain healthy weight, improves your mood, encourages heart and lung health, and promotes better sleep.

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