Breast cancer is currently the most common form of cancer in women, though men can develop the disease as well. Knowing enough about the condition in its early stages — along with generally staying healthy and getting regular screenings — can go a long way toward a good prognosis and treatability if you are diagnosed with breast cancer.
Eat mostly Plants
A recent Harvard study showed eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. The best vegetables to eat are leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, and red peppers. These all contain high levels of carotenoids, and antioxidants shown to reduce cancer risk by up to 20%. If you eat meat, stay away from heavily grilled meat, as the carcinogens from open-flame grilling can increase cancer risk. Limit the consumption of red meat and processed meat, and choose poultry and fish more often.
Exercise is an effective factor in preventing breast cancer. Active people are far less likely to be diagnosed with any form of cancer, according to some studies. This doesn’t mean that you need to sign up for the next marathon or Ironman challenge; undertaking just 30 minutes of walking each day can have a fantastic impact on general health. Find a type of exercise that suits you, and stick to it. Doctors recommend exercising for at least half an hour five times a week to maintain good health.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese has direct correlations with an increased risk of breast cancer. This seems to be particularly true for women who have passed menopause. Research suggests that being overweight may impact your hormones which can, in turn, increase risk. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) by eating a sensible diet and getting regular exercise, and may reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Smoking has been linked to an increased risk for almost every type of cancer. Women who have smoked before age 17 face a 24% increased risk compared to non-smokers. Even those who don’t smoke should try to stay away from second-hand smoke. If you do smoke, speak to your doctor about the best options for quitting as soon as possible.
Avoid or Limit Alcohol
Avoid drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis: heavy drinkers and binge drinkers have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, not to mention cancer in general. Experts recommend women drink no more than one unit of alcohol per day, such as a small glass of wine or a single beer. If you are specifically worried about your cancer risk or have a family history of cancer, it may be better to avoid alcohol altogether.
Avoid Hormone Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment for women dealing with severe symptoms of menopause. Unfortunately, studies suggest that HRT can increase the risk of developing breast cancer, with risk percentages varying based on the type and duration of treatment. People with a significant risk of breast cancer may want to avoid all types of hormonal therapy and discuss natural alternatives with their doctors. If you do need to use HRT, try to limit the length of time you receive the therapy.
Avoid Long-Term Exposure to Radiation
Most people will experience radiation exposure at some point when receiving an x-ray or mammogram, or in countless other situations. Small amounts are unlikely to cause any issues, but studies suggest ionizing radiation can certainly increase the risk of cancer, including breast cancer. If you are worried about unnecessary exposure, seek a second opinion before getting an x-ray done. Those who have had radiation therapy around the chest area have a higher risk and should avoid additional exposure to radiation unless there is no other alternative.
Most experts agree that the average person needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to remain healthy. Though research on breast cancer and sleep is varied — with some studies showing more sleep increases risk, though other factors are involved — there’s no question that getting enough sleep helps your body fend off illness, generally speaking. Interruptions in the circadian rhythm, such as uneven sleep schedules or recurring awakenings in the night, also seem to impact health.
Some studies suggest that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A study in The Lancet showed a reduction of just over 4% for every 12 months a new mother breastfed. Researchers think this correlation exists because women don’t menstruate while breastfeeding, which lowers their exposure to estrogen, an excess of which appears to increase the risk of breast cancer.
The most important part of preventing breast cancer is to do self-breast exams often. There is lots of information out there on how to give yourself a breast exam. People at increased risk of breast cancer should get regular screenings. The general recommendation is that people 50 to 75 who are at risk get a mammogram every two years. Women 40 to 50 should discuss the matter with their physician.