According to statistics, about one in eight women in the United States develop breast cancer in their lifetime. While some factors can’t be changed — such as family history of breast cancer — there are some personal lifestyle choices that you can make to reduce the risk of developing it. Although there’s not a definitive remedy, we’re sharing five tips — from the best cancer-preventing foods to daily activities — that science says may reduce the risk.
Give yourself routine exams
Get into the habit of regularly checking for warning signs of breast cancer, which can include a new lump or mass (on the breast or in the underarm), swelling or redness, dimpling of the breast or nipple, inverted nipples, scaly rashes, and discharge. Although these changes aren’t always definitive signs of breast cancer, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have family history of breast cancer or you’ve tested positive for the BRCA gene, begin annual mammograms and clinical breast exams beginning at age 40, as this can decrease the stage of diagnosis.
Limit alcohol consumption
Regular consumption of alcohol has been associated with different kinds of cancer, but the link between alcohol and breast cancer is especially prominent, presumably because it can cause an increase in estrogen to potentially dangerous levels. One 2015 study published in The BMJ found that even one drink a day may raise a woman’s risk of developing cancer, particularly in the breast, by up to 13%.
Regular exercise can reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system and lead to the loss of body fat, all of which can lead to a lower risk of breast cancer. In a 2015 JAMA Oncology study, researchers found that 5 hours of physical activity per week is ideal for preventing breast cancer. Additionally, other research has suggested that up to 40% of other cancers are related to being overweight and obese.
Load up on fiber and antioxidant-packed nuts
Fiber is known to regulate everything from digestion to cholesterol, but a 2016 study reported that women who ate three servings of fiber-filled fruit as teenagers were 25% less likely to develop breast cancer as adults, compared to those who didn’t eat fruit. Fruits with the most fiber include apples, bananas, mangos, and oranges.
The Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia conducted an experiment on mice with human breast cancer. The mice that ate the equivalent of two servings of walnuts each day (14 walnuts), experienced a halt in the cancer’s growth rate by 80 percent. Additionally, the group of mice that ate the walnuts daily got 40 percent fewer tumors than those that didn’t. It’s possibly because walnuts contain more high-quality antioxidants than any other nut.