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As the world is getting behind the messages of awareness and the need for early detection during the international breast cancer awareness month observed annually in October, the popular UAE-based breast cancer awareness initiative by Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) is urging women to be aware and take action to safeguard themselves.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the adoption of healthy lifestyles featuring a nutritious diet, regular exercise and no smoking form the first line of defense. Pink Caravan adds to this by sharing five things women to do to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

Regular checkups

Medical studies and patient experiences worldwide affirm that early detection of breast cancer is important because when abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat and increases the chances of complete cure up to 98 percent. Pink Caravan’s advice is that women age 40 – 45 or older who are at average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram once a year. Regular self-examinations are recommended for women above the age of 20 – 22 years, so they can consult their doctor immediately in case any lumps or thickening is palpable.

Pink Caravan offers clinical examinations or mammogram scans, if necessary and the woman is above 40 YO, free of charge during their annual awareness campaign – the Pink Caravan Ride in Feb – Mar, and also throughout the year with the support of their partners.

Adopt a healthy diet rich in antioxidants

Pink Caravan affirms that a healthy diet is a key to reducing the risk of several types of cancers, especially the one that develops in the breast. They advise consuming foods rich in antioxidants, which will inhibit oxidation and therefore the production of free radicals in the body. Red, yellow and dark green vegetables like peppers and broccoli are considered great sources, in addition to cranberries and pomegranates.

Pink Caravan has also urged the UAE community to curb consumption of food items containing processed sugar, highlighting it plays a major role in disrupting the immune system, which protects the human body from attacking diseases.

Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise

Since its launch in 2011, the Pink Caravan has stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight to lower the chances of many types of cancer including breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney cancers. The initiative recommends that those who are not suffering from any medical conditions should work out for 15 minutes at least on a daily basis, or 75 minutes weekly for those following a strict fitness regimen.

Quit smoking

Smoking causes a number of diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger women. Research also has shown that there may be a link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in women.

Therefore, Pink Caravan has laid great stress on the importance of not smoking in all its types, saying doing so is one of the most effective ways to prevent developing breast cancer.

Breastfeed and avoid prolonged hormone therapy

The Pink Caravan initiative stresses that breastfeeding protects against breast cancer – the longer the mother is able to breastfeed naturally and comfortably, the lower is their risk. They also advise against undergoing prolonged hormone therapy, especially dangerous when it exceeds five years. Pink Caravan says it is advisable to find alternative treatments.