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How to Fight Breast Cancer at Any Age

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What to Do in Your 30s

By now, you've got your doctor's office number programmed into your BlackBerry -- but that doesn't mean you always make regular appointments. Former WNBA basketball player Edna Campbell knows that drill. During an off-season game in 2002, she took a hard elbow to the chest from another player. At first, she figured the swollen lump in her right breast was just a basic injury. When it didn't go down after a few weeks, she became suspicious. That's when Edna got herself to the doctor and learned that the lump in her breast was a malignant tumor. She bowed out of the 2002 season and started treatment right away -- she was only 32 years old. Then came another shocker. "I found out that my 90-year-old great-aunt also had breast cancer when she was in her 30s. Sometimes women don't disclose details like that unless they're prompted. As black women, we're taught to be strong and handle things on our own. But it's important to face the truth and share it with other people." Seven years later, Edna is cancer-free. She staged a comeback in the last game of the 2002 season, played for three more years, then retired in 2006. Now she's in school to become a nurse. She stays healthy by exercising regularly and eating a nutritious diet.

In your 30s and worried about cancer? Follow these tips:

Get calcium and vitamin D

Taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 350 IU of vitamin D is associated with a decreased risk for premenopausal breast cancer, according to data from the Women's Health Study, a large trial of more than 30,000 women. To help your body manufacture the D it needs, spend 5 to 10 minutes in the sun a few days a week without SPF protection (depending on the time of year and where you live), and take vitamin D supplements that contain D3, which the body is better able to use.

Eat less red meat

The risk for certain types of breast cancer rises when you eat pork, beef, lamb, and processed meats, like hot dogs and bacon, according to the Nurses' Health Study II. Researchers think that because the meat contains estrogen, eating it increases the amount of estrogen in your body, influencing your risk for cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting red-meat consumption to 18 ounces per week and avoiding all processed meat.

Get grill savvy

If you do eat steak, marinate it overnight in teriyaki or turmeric-garlic sauce to reduce the carcinogenic compounds that are produced when it's grilled, according to research from the University of Hawaii. Other studies show that a shorter grilling time also creates fewer carcinogens.

Know where you stand

If you're at least 35 years old, check out the National Cancer Institute's risk-assessment tool at cancer.gov/bcrisktool. After answering a series of questions, you'll find out your probability of getting breast cancer in the next five years and over your lifetime. If your risk is high, Dr. Visvanathan suggests visiting a high-risk breast cancer clinic where you can receive counseling about prevention, screening, and other options, such as genetic testing.

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