Breast cancer prevention: The truth and the myths 

Seeing pink? Pink is now the can’t-miss-it color for October. It’s splashed on everything from pizza boxes to the White House.

Despite a small stink about pink among some breast cancer awareness advocates (because it has adorned several not-so-healthy products, such as fat-packed fried chicken, which promotes breast cancer), no one argues with pink’s take-charge message: You can do plenty to detect, survive and prevent breast cancer (including avoiding fried foods), despite occasional mistakes and muddled messages.

Case in point: NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell’s inspiring announcement about her breast cancer, caught early by a mammogram: “I’m already back at work, with a terrific prognosis,” Mitchell told her huge TV audience. “I’m looking at this as a life lesson. For you women out there, and for the men who love you, screening matters. Do it.” Bravo!

But Mitchell also caught some flak for muddling a few facts. She said she was among the “one in eight” women with breast cancer. That’s the average lifetime risk of getting breast cancer — not, thankfully, the number of women who have it now. Then she said it’s “completely curable if you find it at the right time.” Well, no, that depends on the type, though in her case, the five-year survival rate (not “curable” rate) is a great 98 percent.

And Mitchell’s basic “get a mammogram” message was right-on. When headlines shout that mammograms aren’t worth getting or that lifestyle changes don’t matter, don’t feel confused. Just remember these vital “pink” facts:

1. Regular breast-cancer screenings (starting at age 40, or sooner if you have a family history) slash your risk for fatal breast cancer by 30 percent.

2. Survival rates with great quality of life are increasing yearly, thanks to earlier detection and better treatments.

3. Watching your weight, eating your broccoli and cauliflower (and other cruciferous vegetables), being active every day, having at most one drink daily and, if you’re a new mom, breastfeeding, prevents more than a third of breast cancers.

Here are more pink truths that can help you one-up breast cancer:

Personalize your prevention. Not sure where you stand, risk-wise? Take the breast cancer test at If you’re at above-average risk, plenty of factors can lower it. In addition to staying slim and active, not smoking and eating smart, talk to your doc about taking two baby aspirins a day and 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3.

Go for a triple play. Many women worry far more about breast cancer than heart disease, even though cardiac trouble is the No. 1 threat for women. But get this: The same steps lower your risk for both — and they smack down type 2 diabetes, too. We’re talking about managing your weight and waist size; exercising; and choosing foods that cool inflammation and are blood-sugar-friendly. Women with diabetes are at far higher risk of heart disease and at higher risk for breast cancer.

There’s one diet change that aims specifically at breast cancer. If you and your doc decide that it’s a significantly bigger threat for you than heart disease, sharply limit or eliminate beer, wine and cocktails.

Even though a drink a day is heart-protective, not drinking definitely reduces breast cancer risk. Both the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research now endorse this step, regardless. They believe the extra cancer risk of a daily drink outweighs its heart benefits.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to

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