Decrease your risk of getting breast cancer by living a lifestyle that keeps you lean, feeds your body with the healthiest foods, ensures you get key nutrients, and helps you avoid simple things that put you at risk. There is an abundance of research into what causes breast cancer, and the key take away from all this research, is that simple lifestyle habits can make a big difference when it comes to cancer.
Some factors that increase breast cancer risk are out of your control, such as genetics, environmental pollutants in the area where you live, or the age at which you start menopause. However, there are a number of things you can do to decrease your risk.
All of these breast cancer strategies will improve your overall health and well being, and when you remember that they can decrease your breast cancer risk, you’ll be that much more motivated to make them lifestyle habits and teach them to your daughters. In fact, why not share them with as many people as possible since a big part of breast cancer prevention is about developing healthy habits in early adolescence?
A great example of this is with exercise, which is well known to decrease breast cancer risk. But, did you know that being physically active during the teen years appears to have the greatest impact on lowering breast cancer risk of all—even greater than if you are active during and after menopause?
Another reason to spread the word on breast cancer prevention strategies is that many of the factors that decrease a woman’s breast cancer risk will equally help a man prevent prostate cancer. The best prevention plan is a balanced plan. The following are twelve areas to focus on for a breast cancer prevention lifestyle:
#1: Exercise and Lift Weights Regularly
Reviews suggest that there is as much as an 80 percent reduction in breast cancer risk if you are physically active throughout your life. This means doing regular vigorous exercise AND being active during the day. For example, a study of over 1,500 women found that those who did exercise at an intensity that was vigorous enough to break a sweat were half as likely to develop breast cancer as women who did no exercise.
Exercise is especially important during the teen years and during menopause. These are the times when women have the greatest variation in hormones, particularly estrogen. High levels of estrogen are difficult for the body to metabolize safely and are linked to greater breast cancer risk.
Scientists are not yet sure of the mechanism by which physical activity decreases breast cancer risk. However, one hypothesis is that it enhances estrogen metabolism. We know for sure that if women increase their muscle mass by resistance training, they will experience a favorable shift in how their bodies metabolize estrogen. Of course, resistance training and exercise also decrease body fat and lower chronic inflammation as well, both of which are principal factors in breast cancer development.
#2: Eat Organic
Always eat organic meat and dairy. Non-organic animals are fed growth promoting hormones that can mess with your hormones and raise cancer risk. If possible, avoid pesticides from non-organic produce because these can also mimic estrogen when they enter the body.
#3: Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol increases estrogen levels leading to greater breast cancer risk. Drinking alcohol also increases the detoxification load that the body has to handle, which can significantly increase disease and cancer risk. In addition, it is possible that alcohol alters how the body eliminates toxins. If you choose to drink sometimes, opt for red wine.
#4: Avoid Cooked Starches and Processed Meats
North America has the highest breast cancer rates in the world as well as the highest intake of processed and red meat. The same goes for cooked carbs such as potatoes and processed wheat, and these foods produce a chemical called acrylamide that is linked to breast cancer risk.
Never eat processed meats or cooked starches, and avoid non-organic meat as much as possible. You don’t have to go vegetarian, just vary the type of meat you eat—one study found that women who ate more than 4 ounces of red meat daily had greater risk of all cancers.
#5: Eat Nuts Daily
Eat nuts, especially walnuts. Nuts provide healthy fats and antioxidants. Walnuts have been shown to halt tumor growth, and greater nut intake has been repeatedly linked to lower breast cancer risk.
#6: Drink Green Tea and Coffee
Drink green tea and coffee. One study found women who drank 3 cups of green tea a day decreased breast cancer risk by 37 percent.
Coffee is protective too—a huge study of over 67,000 women found that those who drank more than 4 cups a day had a 25 percent lower risk of estrogen-related cancer. The reason is that coffee enhances the expression of enzymes in the liver that help metabolize estrogen down the healthiest elimination pathway.
#7: Be Smart About Soy
Soy is high in phytoestrogens, which behave in the body like weak forms of estrogen. There is a theory that phytoestrogens protect against breast cancer by binding to estrogen receptors, locking out cancer-causing estrogen. However, results of studies on soy intake and breast cancer risk are contradictory with some finding increased cancer risk and soy intake and others finding the opposite. For example, a Japanese study found that the more miso soup women ate, the lower the breast cancer risk.
The problem is that a lot of the soy we eat in the Western world is genetically modified, highly processed, and acid washed. All these bad things they do to soy coupled with the fact that some women have taken isolated phytoestrogens from soy, such as genistein, has led to the association between soy and breast cancer.
Avoid GMO, processed, or isolated soy, which includes soy milk, meat substitutes, and tofu. Opt for minimally processed soy that is fermented such as tempeh or miso. Use it as a condiment rather than a staple.
#8: Get Healthy Fats & Avoid Bad Fats
Omega-3 fats that are found in fish have been shown to promote estrogen metabolism down the safest pathway. EPA-rich omega-3 are particularly effective.
In addition, a massive European study of 61,000 women found that for each additional 10 grams of monounsaturated fat (the kind in olive oil) that women ate, breast cancer risk dropped by 45 percent. In that same study, breast cancer risk increased by 69 percent for every additional 5 grams of animal fat that the women ate. Avoid all trans-fats and other processed fats and stick with olive oil, fish oil, and the fat that naturally comes in animal products.
#9: Get Enough Vitamin D
Low vitamin D is a huge public health issue and it is linked over and over again with increased breast cancer risk. Get your level tested, and if you are below 40 ng/ml, take supplemental D. Don’t rely on food for your vitamin D—one study found that women who got their vitamin D from food and didn’t supplement had an increased risk of breast cancer (overall their D level was very low).
#10: Get a Lot Of Fiber, Fruits, and Veggies
Fiber is EXTREMELY important for breast cancer prevention because it helps ensure complete elimination of estrogen from the body. Estrogen needs to be bound to something, generally lignans, to be removed from the body.
Lignans are naturally found in seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower), vegetables (kale, broccoli), and fruit (apricots, strawberries). Dietary fiber helps reduce the amount of an enzyme that breaks bound estrogen free from lignans when it’s on its way out of the body. If this happens, the estrogen re-enters circulation, damages tissue, and causes cancer.
Research supports the lower breast cancer-higher fiber connection. One study of Chinese women found that those who ate the largest amount of fiber from fruits and veggies had the lowest breast cancer risk. Shoot for at least 25 grams of fiber a day from five servings of vegetables and two of fruit.
#11: Develop A Stress Management Strategy
Stress is repeatedly linked to breast cancer risk and greater chance of dying from breast cancer. Studies suggest women’s health is negatively impacted to a greater degree by stress than men’s.
Try meditation, deep breathing, and write down one thing you are grateful for daily. Be sure to use all the breast cancer prevention tips listed here because they can also help you de-stress!
#12: Avoid Chemical Estrogens Like BPA
There are many chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) that mimic estrogen in the body, and they are strongly linked with breast cancer risk. Exposure to chemical estrogens is one of the three breast cancer risk factors listed on the leading breastcancer.org web site—the other two are genetics and being overweight—which highlights how important this one is.