Dr. Rosanne Iversen, left, will present a free health program called "My Climb for Breast Cancer Prevention" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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Dr. Rosanne Iversen, left, will present a free health program called "My Climb for Breast Cancer Prevention" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Monday Medical: Women can take steps to lower their risk of breast cancer

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If you go

What: "My Climb for Breast Cancer Prevention," a presentation given by breast cancer survivor Dr. Rosanne Iversen as part of the "Taking Care of Me" program

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center, Conference Room 1

Cost: Free

One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. With those statistics, most of us know someone who has suffered or will suffer this disease. That person may be your wife, your daughter, your mother, your sister, your friend or even yourself.

Breast cancer struck home for me in March 2007 when, like a flip of a switch, I went from being the physician to being the patient.

As a physician, I was thankful for the many advances in medicine - which traditionally has focused on early detection and treatment for cancer. I felt fortunate to benefit from cutting-edge medical technology.

As a patient, I was scared for my life and fearful to travel down the road of cancer with all its frustrations.

Fifty percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will have traditional risk factors such as obesity, family history, sedentary life style, high-fat diet, late childbirth or no childbirth. This leaves 50 percent of cases with no known cause.

What causes the other 50 percent of breast cancers? This answer indeed is complex; no chemical, product or gene by itself causes breast cancer. More and more evidence now is showing us that environment plays a role in cancer, as well as genetics.

A major trend in research shows early life exposure to chemicals, including exposure in utero, contributes to breast cancer risk later in life. Time of exposure is as critical as genes and environment.

You may have heard some recent publicity about plastics and breast cancer. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used to make plastic hard and is found in containers marked with the recycling code number seven. There is a link between BPA and breast cancer. Some companies now are taking BPA out of their products.

Phthalates (pronounced thalates) also have been in the news, and there is a bill, waiting for the president's signature, that would eliminate certain phthalates from kids' toys.

I am very excited about the policy changes that are occurring to make our lives and our environment healthier. My hopes are that the next generation will not face the risk of one in eight women suffering from breast cancer. I would like to see that number decrease to one in 20, as was the risk before World War II, just a few generations ago.

I climbed Mount Shasta this June to raise awareness of breast cancer and to raise funds for breast cancer prevention. I came out of treatment from breast cancer a different person. I came out of the climb even more different.

I feel as though I now am part of a group of people ready to change the world. Just as I have been empowered by my experience, I invite you to start making changes in your life, too.

How can you lower your risk of breast cancer?

Don't smoke or chew tobacco.

Maintain a normal weight.

Eat seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Exercise more.

If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink per day.

What can you do now to lower your environmental breast cancer risk? Start by making safer choices for yourself and your family:

Limit your use of plastic food and beverage containers.

Look for BPA- and phthalate-safe plastics, including bottles, cups and pacifiers.

Never heat food in plastic.

Buy hormone-free meat and milk.

Avoid household pesticides.

Use non-toxic cleaning products.

Choose personal care products and makeup that are free of toxic chemicals.

For more information about breast cancer, visit these Web sites:

- www.breastcancerfund.org

- www.pureprevention.org

- www.safecosmetics.org

- www.womenshealthandenvironment.org.

Rosanne Iversen, M.D., is a board-certified family medicine physician and has been in practice in Steamboat Springs since 1992.

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