Five Ways to Help Reduce Your Breast Cancer RiskOctober 10, 2019
Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are several things you can do that may lower your likelihood of getting it. Other factors, including family history, also increase your risk, but most women who get breast cancer do not have it in the family.
Here are 5 ways to help protect your breast health:
1. Watch your weight. Being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk. This is especially true after menopause and for women who gain weight as adults. 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, women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin, another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.
If you’re already at a healthy weight, stay there. If you’re carrying extra pounds, try to lose some. There’s some evidence that losing weight may lower breast cancer risk. Losing even a small amount of weight – for example, half a pound a week – can also have other health benefits and is a good place to start.
2. Exercise regularly. Many studies have found that exercise is a breast-healthy habit.
The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. (Or a combination of both.) Moderate-intensity activities are at the level of a brisk walk that makes you breathe hard. And don’t cram it all into a single workout – spread it out over the week.
3. Limit time spent sitting. Evidence is growing that sitting time increases the likelihood of developing cancer, especially for women. In an American Cancer Society study, women who spent 6 hours or more each a day sitting when not working had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day, and an increased risk for some other cancer types as well.
4. Limit or avoid alcohol. Research has shown that women who have 2 to 3 alcohol drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk compared to women who don’t drink at all. Even women who have 1 drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk. Excessive drinking increases the risk of other cancer types, too.
The American Cancer Society recommends women have no more than 1 alcohol drink in a single day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
5. Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was used more often in the past to help control night sweats, hot flashes, and other symptoms of menopause. But researchers now know that postmenopausal women who take a combination of estrogen and progestin are more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk typically increases after about 4 years of use, and appears to go back down within 5 years after stopping the combination of hormones.
Talk with your doctor about all the options to control your menopause symptoms, and the risks and benefits of each. If you do decide to try HRT, it is best to use it at the lowest dose that works for you and for as short a time as possible.