We all share a common trait that puts us at risk for breast cancer : we are women. While that is a risk factor that we cannot change, there are many places in our lives where we can take steps to prevent breast cancer.

7 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

1. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

The World Health Organization has determined that dietary factors account for at least 20 percent of all cancers in developing countries and up to 30% in Western countries.

Eating high-fat foods, dairy products, meat, dairy products, fried foods, and even certain vegetable oils, causes a woman’s body to produce more estrogen, which stimulates the growth of cancer cells in the breast and other organs that they are sensitive to female sex hormones.

But following these three steps can help you lower your risk:

Eat cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, arugula, and Brussels sprouts, are packed with phytochemicals called indoles and isothiocyanates, which can help reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing the production of “bad” estrogens (16-alpha- OHE) while increasing levels of “good” “Estrogen (2-OHE).

Eliminate meat or make “meatless Monday”

The high fat content of meat and dairy products increases hormone production, increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.

Meat also contains animal protein, saturated fat, and in some cases carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) formed during meat processing or cooking.

Get more beta carotene

Beta-carotene, a cancer-fighting type of carotenoid and antioxidant, is a colorful pigment found in orange and red fruits and vegetables. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene per day.

Beta-carotene inhibits oxidation and protects the body from free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to cancer and other chronic diseases.

The American Heart Association suggests getting beta-carotene (and other antioxidants) from food rather than supplements. Good food sources of beta-carotene include:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Spinach and Kale
  • Fruits like cantaloupe and apricots

Research suggests that beta-carotene levels may decrease in some fruits and vegetables, such as peas and carrots, when frozen.

Berries, cherries, kale, tomatoes, and spinach are also foods that contain nutrients that promote cellular health and protect the cell from damage.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight not only increases the risk of breast cancer , it also increases the likelihood of recurrence in those who have had breast cancer. A BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 25 increases your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

This is especially true after menopause and for women who gain weight in adulthood. After menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue.

Having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Also, overweight women tend to have higher levels of insulin, another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some types of cancer, including breast cancer.

If you are already at a healthy weight, stay there. If you carry extra pounds, try to lose some. There is some evidence that losing weight can reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Losing even a small amount of weight, say 20 grams per week, can have other health benefits as well and is a good place to start.

3. Exercise

New studies find that increasing exercise to reduce body fat may lower breast cancer risk for postmenopausal women. Body fat has been associated with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer .

Before beginning an exercise program, it is important to speak with your doctor to determine any limitations you may have regarding exercise.

Aerobic exercise helps improve heart and lung function. Walking, swimming, running, biking, dancing, and walking are just a few examples of aerobic exercise. The benefits of aerobic exercise include:

  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Greater resistance
  • A lower resting heart rate
  • Weight loss or maintenance
  • Stress relief
  • Better sleep

Building a routine takes time. Slowly incorporate exercise into your weekly routine, starting with a reasonable amount that you can build on. Eventually, you should be able to incorporate some form of physical activity every day.

Exercise for 45-60 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.

4. Limit alcoholic beverages

Drinking daily can increase your risk of developing breast cancer, although you still can’t give up that glass of wine with dinner.

The link between alcohol consumption and increased risk of breast cancer is slightly clearer, thanks to a recent study by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research .

Research published in 2017 finds that drinking an average of 10 grams of alcohol a day can cause:

  • 5 percent increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women
  • A 9 percent increase in postmenopausal women

5. Reduce your exposure to estrogen

Hormones cause many cases of breast cancer. Long-term exposure to the hormone estrogen is a major risk factor. Here are some things to help you avoid overexposure to estrogen and substantially reduce your risk of breast cancer .

Since body fat plays an important role in estrogen production, maintain a healthy weight through diet and physical activity.

Drink in moderation, if you do. Alcohol can interfere with the action of estrogen in the body.

Carefully consider hormone replacement therapy and oral contraception options. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these medications.

Reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals found in many foods, packaging items, and consumer products.

The endocrine disruptors mess with our hormones. Many of them can mimic or interfere with estrogen in the body, and they have been found to cause breast tumors in animal studies.

6. Stop smoking

Smoking is a confirmed risk factor for many types of cancer. Recent research in the last year (2012) has confirmed that smoking is a risk factor that contributes to the development of breast cancer.

In addition, secondhand smoke (secondhand smoke) is also a risk factor for cancer. So if you are a smoker, help yourself in a meaningful way and join a smoking cessation program to help you do so.

The day you quit smoking, healing can begin and each week that you are smoke-free, you are given more and more benefits for a healthier life. Smoking also directly contributes to heart and lung disease.

Heal your gut

Both your digestive tract and liver health are important for breast health. The liver processes excess estrogen and removes it from the body through the intestine.

Eating foods rich in fiber, taking probiotics, and curing leaky gut or infections will allow your gut to eliminate toxins, hormones, and waste, protecting your body and allowing you to get the most nutrients from your food.

And do not forget

Check your breasts monthly: A monthly breast self-exam can help you become familiar with your breasts, which is important to detect early changes in your breast tissue.

Many women only see their doctor for clinical breast exams every 1 to 3 years, which makes breast self-exams that much more important.

Routine examining your own breasts while working with a healthcare professional can be an effective tool in early detection.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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