Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, and approximately one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed every year and the National Breast Cancer foundation estimates that 40,000 women will die of the disease yearly.
Although certain risk factors, such as age and family history, cannot be changed, there are other risk factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes. The following are steps that you can take to lower your chances of getting breast cancer:
1. Watch Your Diet
A healthy diet lowers the risk of developing breast cancer. Try to include a lot of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet and limit the consumption of red meats and processed foods. Check out these 10 best cancer fighting foods.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. A study from the University of Texas at Houston found that obese women also had lower breast cancer survival rates and a greater chance of more aggressive disease than average-weight or underweight women.
If you’re already at a healthy weight, stay there. If you’re overweight, try to lose a few pounds. Learn these 15 easy ways to cut calories and lose weight.
3. Get Moving
Many studies have found that exercise can help cut down your breast cancer risk and even help breast cancer survivors live longer. According to a study from the Women’s Health Initiative, women who engaged in the equivalent of 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking had an 18 percent decreased risk of breast cancer. Slightly greater reduction in risk was observed for women who engaged in the equivalent of 10 hours or more per week of brisk walking.
For most healthy adults, the American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
4. Don’t Smoke or Breathe in Secondhand Smoke
Smoking not only causes many different cancers including breast cancer, it can also damage nearly every organ in your body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, eyes, skin and bones. So don’t smoke. If you do, quit it.
Getting exposed to second-hand smoke also increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, particularly if you are frequently exposed during menopause.
5. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Research has shown that women who drink 2-5 alcoholic drinks daily have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who drink only 1 drink a day or not at all. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk is to limit your alcohol consumption to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drink for men.
6. Breastfeed Your Babies
Studies have shown that women who breastfeed their babies have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, especially those who continue it for up to two years. Experts believe that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer because it reduces the total number of menstrual cycles a woman can have, exposing her to lower levels of hormones that are responsible for breast cancer. Breastfeed also has great health benefits for the baby.
7. Limit Your Exposure to Medical Radiation
Medical imaging tests, such X-rays and CT scans, used radiation to produce images of the inside of the body. Exposure to such radiation can increase the risk of developing cancer, including breast cancer. Talk with your medical care team whether or not the tests are necessary and whether there may be alternative tests that don’t use radiation, such as an MRI or ultrasound.
8. Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment used to relieve the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, etc. But, researchers discovered that menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be more likely to develop breast cancer.
If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about the other options to manage the side effects of menopause, and the benefits and risks of each.
9. Get Screening Test
Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease.
Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help detect breast cancer early. Early detection is crucial in preventing breast cancer from spreading and becoming more challenging to treat successfully. Ask your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them.