The ways to prevent breast cancer have not yet been fully explored. It can never really be said what could have been done or not to prevent breast cancer. However, some risk factors are known, being aware of these and avoiding them is key in order to reduce the risk of getting the disease.
Good news is that treatments keep getting better, and we know more than ever about ways to prevent the disease. These seven simple steps can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Not every one applies to every woman, but together they can have a big impact.
Keep Weight in Check
It’s easy to tune out because it gets said so often, but maintaining a healthy weight is an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Studies have conclusively shown that exercise can help cut down your breast cancer risk and even help breast cancer survivors live longer. So get out there and dance, run, bike or walk. Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes every day.
Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy
Current or recent past users of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Before the link between HRT use and breast cancer risk was established, many postmenopausal women took HRT for many years to ease menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, fatigue) and to reduce bone loss. Since 2002, when research linked HRT and risk, the number of women taking HRT has dropped dramatically. Still, many women continue to use HRT to handle bothersome menopausal symptoms.
Maintain a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet might decrease your risk of some types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For example, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, like olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.
Stop Excess Drinking and Smoking!
A woman’s risk of breast cancer increases by six percent for every extra alcoholic drink consumed on a daily basis, the world’s largest study of women’s smoking and drinking behavior reveals. The new research from Cancer Research UK estimates that alcohol accounts for around four percent of breast cancers in the developed world – and around 2,000 cases each year in the UK alone. And if women’s alcohol consumption continues to increase this figure is likely to rise.
Higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women with low levels of the vitamin. For example, one study found that women who got plenty of vitamin D in early life — either in their diet or by spending time outdoors, where sun exposure triggers vitamin D production in the skin — had a lower risk for breast cancer. Another investigation linked high blood levels of vitamin D with a 50% reduction in risk for breast cancer. Reaching those levels requires more than the recommended intake of 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day for women ages 50–70.
Get Checked Regularly
Monthly self-breast exams and annual mammograms for women don’t prevent cancer, but they can help find cancer at the earliest stages when it’s most treatable. Please consult your physician for a specific screening schedule tailored to your risk profile.
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