October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a yearly campaign that raises awareness around screening, treatment, and prevention of the disease. With around 300,000 diagnoses expected to be made this year, it is the United States’ most common cancer.
There are multiple factors involved in breast cancer, many of which are genetic and still being discovered through research. It is always important to talk with your doctor about your family history, personal medical history, and any high-risk behaviors. That said, there are small, achievable lifestyle adjustments you can make that can potentially lower your chance for the disease and keep you healthy over your lifetime. And many of them begin in the garden.
Gardening for Cancer Prevention
A healthy lifestyle is key for breast cancer prevention. This includes regularly moving your body and enjoying fresh, healthy food. Gardens can play a huge part in these activities, as well as help with mental health and wellbeing.
Studies have shown that working outside over the course of many years lowers the risk of breast cancer, due to the increased absorption of Vitamin D. Additionally, turning time in the garden into a mini-workout is surprisingly easy–and fun. Bending and stretching are low-impact but extremely effective ways to get your body moving. Lifting bags of soil, potted plants, or rocks can build strength and increase muscle tone. Even raking leaves can be turned into cardio with a little bit of imagination!
And exercise in the garden is only the beginning. The (literal) fruits of your labor can also be instrumental in overall health. Studies have shown that following the Mediterranean diet can lower your breast cancer risk. The diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, as well as fish, healthy oils, nuts, whole grains, and legumes. A fresh and delicious Mediterranean dinner transformed by home-grown herbs and vegetables–what could be better?
Gardening During Cancer Treatment
For those who are currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, we see you and are with you in your fight. While going through cancer is never easy, a garden can be both a place of solace, movement, and health throughout the course of your journey.
Low impact exercise in the garden can help keep your body moving even when other forms of working out seem impossible. Gardens have also been proven to improve mental health and mood by focusing attention on immediate tasks. The Vitamin D from increased time outside can also help to counteract the extreme deficiencies sometimes brought on by chemotherapy.
If you are looking to grow plants that support your health during treatment, there are plenty of options. Cruciferous vegetables contain antioxidants and anti-estrogen properties as well as phytochemicals. Garlic, onions, shallots and leeks contain health-promoting organo-sulfides. If you are experiencing side effects such as nausea, consider growing fresh ginger root to add to water and meals throughout the day.
To learn more about breast cancer screening, treatment and prevention, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation.