By Debbie Jeffery, RDN LD
About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some time in her life, and worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. While some risk factors are out of our control, like genetics and getting older, there are things that can be done to lower your breast cancer risk. The American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that staying a healthy weight and exercising can prevent 38% of US breast cancer occurrences. Below are diet and lifestyle tips to help you fight breast cancer.
• Manage your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your breast cancer risk. For women who gain weight as adults and after menopause, this is especially true. What contributes to the increased risk is that estrogen is produced in the fatty tissue. The good news is that evidence shows that weight loss can lower the risk. Reduce lifetime weight gain by limiting calories and getting regular physical activity.
• Limit alcohol. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have 2 or more alcoholic beverages a day have about 1 1/2 times the risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 1 drink daily for women. A drink is 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor.
• Breastfeed for as long as possible. The protective effect is probably a result of the balance of hormones due to the breastfeeding process. In addition, when breastfeeding is stopped, the body rids the breast of many cells, some of which may have DNA damage. Breastfeeding for 2 years may reduce breast cancer risk by half.
• Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Research has found a positive correlation between a decrease in breast cancer risk and an increase in certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, A, and E. Fruits and vegetables are high in these vitamins and other antioxidants. Also because fruits and vegetables are low in calories & fat and high in fiber, they are helpful for weight control.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise is a breast-healthy habit supported by many studies. Having a regular physical activity routine can help decrease estrogen levels which can decrease risk for breast cancer.
For more information visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website, NBCAM.org.