Simple Ways to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

In America, a woman has a one in nine chance for developing breast cancer. While that statistic is extremely depressing, here are some lifestyle choices you can make to help decrease your risk.

  • Exercise Regularly - The American Cancer Society suggests you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes, five or more days a week. If your schedule doesn't allow for that, be sure to fit it in as often as you can, at least four times a week. Studies show that walking for two and a half hours a week reduced the risk by 18 percent.
  • Get Pregnant Before 30 and Breastfeed - Being pregnant many times and at an early age (before 30) reduces your breast cancer risk. It has to do with having less periods during your lifetime. While you're at it, skip the formula since some studies show that nursing your baby slightly lowers your risk, especially if you keep it up for one and a half to two years.
  • Stop Taking the Pill After 10 Years - Although taking the pill can decrease your risk for ovarian cancer, taking it for more than 10 years actually increases your risk for developing breast cancer. If you've been on the pill forever, don't worry, because as soon as you go off it, your risk begins to go back to normal over time.
  • Don't Be a Boozer - One drink a day is the recommended limit for women, but if you're worried about breast cancer, you may want to ditch the alcohol altogether. The National Breast Cancer Foundation says, "One or two drinks a day has been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. The greater the levels consumed, the higher the risk."
  • Lose the Jiggle, Especially Around Your Middle - Being overweight greatly affects your risk for developing breast cancer. So if you have some pounds to lose, especially belly fat, use breast cancer as your motivation.
  • Check Yourself- Annual breast exams by your gynecologist are beneficial, but monthly exams done by yourself are very effective at early detection, and often early detection is key. You should examine your breasts one week after your period, and since you check them on a regular basis, you'll know what they feel like normally and will be able to see or feel changes on your breasts, nipples, and armpits. Any variation you notice is worth an appointment with your doctor.
  • Aim for 25 to 30 Grams of Fiber Daily - Women who eat a diet high in fiber significantly reduce their risk for breast cancer by up to 50 percent. Aim for 25 to 30 grams a day by loading up on fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Don't Fear Soy - Although rumors are running rampant that eating soy products can increase your risk of developing cancer, there's no evidence to back that up. In fact, studies show that women who ate soy regularly decreased their risk by 60 percent. So include edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soymilk in your diet.
  • Load Up on Fruits and Veggies -
    Fruits and veggies are cancer-fighting foods, so get your fill of fresh produce. Foods rich in beta-carotene such as carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes lower breast cancer risk by 20 percent.
  • Get Your Daily RDI of Calcium and Vitamin D - Calcium and vitamin D play a role in reducing breast cancer risk as well. The RDI of calcium is 1,000 mg and dairy products, almonds, and broccoli are great sources. When it comes to vitamin D, an adult woman needs 200 International Units (IU) each day, though it's argued that 800 to 1,000 IU should be the RDI. Fortified cereal, milk, and OJ are great sources, but it's also found naturally in eggs, and cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines.
  • Sip Green Tea - A recent study of over 2,000 Chinese women found their risk for developing breast cancer decreased by 40 percent when they consumed large amounts of green tea. If you're a coffee fanatic, those who drank four cups a day also had a 40 percent decrease in risk.
  • Steer Clear of Smoke - I don't have to tell you that smoking increases your risk of breast cancer, but even if you've quit or never started, you also want to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Non-smokers who've had long-term exposure may have a 70 percent increased risk in developing breast cancer.
  • Sleep Tight Nightly - Not sleeping well increases breast cancer risk. So if you're having trouble falling asleep, or toss and turn all night, figure out what the problem is. Reducing the amount of light in your bedroom, exercising regularly, or taking a hot bath before bed can help you get the shut-eye you need.
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