Posted October 4, 2012

As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is a time to focus on how to join the fight against breast cancer. But what can you — and the women you love — do personally to fight the disease?

Everyday lifestyle choices can do a lot to help you stay well and reduce your cancer risk. One-third of cancer deaths each year are attributed to diet, physical inactivity and obesity, and another third are due to the use of tobacco products. While there are breast cancer risk factors you can’t change, such as age and genetics, there are others, like postmenopausal obesity, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity, that you have the power to do something about.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women (and men) avoid tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active and eat a healthy diet. It’s also important for women to see their doctors regularly and have regular cancer screening tests.

Staying active means engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week for adults, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week.

Eating right means choosing a plant-based diet — at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and fruits each day, whole grains instead of processed (refined) grains and limiting the amount of processed and red meat you eat. Women should also limit themselves to one alcoholic beverage a day, as breast cancer risk appears to increase with alcohol consumption.

Getting screened means having a clinical breast exam every three years for women ages 20-39, and a mammogram and clinical breast exam annually for women 40 and older. While cancer screening tests cannot prevent breast cancer, they may help catch the disease early, when it is easiest to treat.

Try this healthy muffin recipe made with pumpkin, which is filled with beta-carotene, a compound that may protect against cancers and heart disease. Canned pumpkin is almost equal to fresh in nutrients.

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Makes 40 muffins

From “Celebrate! Healthy Entertaining for Any Occasion,” 2001 by American Cancer Society.

To make these muffin “tops,” beat them for no more than 15 seconds. Over beating results in muffins that have a tough texture.

6 cups oat cereal flakes

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup sugar

5 cups whole-wheat flour

5 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon dried ground ginger

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup golden raisins

2 eggs, beaten

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 quart low-fat buttermilk

3/4 cup canola oil

Paper muffin cups

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line three muffin pans with paper muffin cups. In a large bowl, mix together cereal, salt, sugar, flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon. Stir in raisins. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, buttermilk and oil. Stir until blended. Mix wet ingredients with try until batter just holds together. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into muffin cups (about ” full). Bake for 17 minutes.

Per serving: 158 calories, 5 grams total fat.

This October, make a choice to stay well and reduce your cancer risk. Find the tools you need to stay well by calling your American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345 or visiting

Contributed by the New England Division of the American Cancer Society.

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