In October, fundraisers and pink ribbons were all over the place in my area. October is very meaningful to those who have been impacted with breast cancer and it is a great reminder for women to take care of their health and to get that annual breast screening.
One of my sons plays on the JV Soccer Team and they did a wonderful fundraiser at his home game. They called it “Play for Pink” and the team wore pink jerseys and 50/50 raffle tickets were sold at the game, along with raffle tickets for some awesome prizes from local businesses (I won 2 prizes!). All of the proceeds were donated to a local non-profit organization that offers professional counseling, support groups, wellness activities, and educational resources for women facing cancer.
Although it is a very positive, supportive month, I would like to talk about the elephant in the room.
Other fundraisers I have seen are “Drink for Pink” – gatherings that promote drinking alcohol to raise money for breast cancer research or organizations like I mentioned above. Or raffle baskets that include bottles of wine.
Alcohol is a major contributor to raising one’s risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. The promotion of drinking alcohol to support this is very contradicting and confusing for many. It is also sad to know how many women are not aware of this.
A couple of years ago, I was at one of these fundraisers. Many of the women were drinking wine during the event, and bottles of wine were being raffled off. I said to my girlfriend sitting next to me: “It’s tough to see all of this alcohol around us at this breast cancer awareness event, being that alcohol increases breast cancer risk”. My friend looked at me astonished and said: “It does?? I never knew that!” I could not believe my friend who is in her 40s had no idea. I thought it was common knowledge.
One of my main driving factors to make a lifestyle change and stop drinking alcohol was that I was very worried about getting breast cancer one day. I am not kidding when I say I worried about it EVERY DAY. To be honest, with the amount I was drinking, I was surprised I had not already gotten it. Having 8 or more drinks per week for a woman is considered heavy drinking. I was drinking at least that, if not more, on a Friday night alone. And this was a normal, weekly routine for me.
Drinking even small amounts of alcohol is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol can raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risk.
According to the American Cancer Society, women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk compared with non-drinkers, while women who have 2 to 3 drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk than non-drinkers.
And in June of 2020, they revised their guidelines for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention and now recommend it is best not to drink alcohol at all. People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
ONE drink for a woman? There was never a day in my life that I ever only had just one drink!
So, while October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a reminder to take care of yourself by making that annual appointment, it should also be a reminder to take care of your overall health. Healthy eating, daily exercise, good sleep, and stress reduction are all readily available tools to help reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Not only will all of the mentioned lifestyle factors reduce your breast cancer risk, but they will also help you pave the way for a life of ongoing vibrant health and wellness.
Since I gave up alcohol in September of 2018, although I know I am not out of the woods, I no longer worry that I will get breast cancer every day. Why? Because I am no longer drinking the toxin that can increase my risk of getting breast cancer, and take care of my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I have drastically cut down my chances of ever getting it. I continue to grow and include life practices that feel good and optimize my overall health and wellness. Talk about a major release of cognitive dissonance!
I made a choice more than four years ago when I finally decided to respect and love myself. That one decision has placed me on a continued path of growth that keeps me moving forward in life and feeling good, for which I am forever grateful.