One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point during her life. Though breast cancer is now more survivable than ever, the pain of chemo, the uncertainty of living with cancer, and the reality that breast cancer still kills all conspire to make breast cancer one of the most feared diagnoses. You can't completely prevent breast cancer, but you can do plenty to reduce your risk. Even if you have a genetic legacy of breast cancer, these five tips can take a big bite out of your cancer risk.
1. Control Your Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your overall cancer risk, including your risk of beast cancer. Note that controlling your weight doesn't mean being excessively thin; indeed, doing so can increase your risk. Instead, it means chatting with your doctor about your ideal body weight, then doing what you can to hit that number.
2. Go Alcohol-Free
Alcohol may be an important part of the social fabric, but it's also a drug—and a dangerous one at that. Not only does alcohol make it hard to maintain a healthy body weight; it can also destroy your health. Alcohol use is associated with a marked increase in all types of cancer. If you absolutely must drink, limit yourself to less than a drink per day.
3. Eat a Balanced Diet
You've probably heard that a number of foods can reduce your cancer risk, but the truth is that no single “miracle food” is going to help you stay cancer free. Instead, it's about balance over time. Get plenty of whole grains and fiber in the form of sprouted-grain bread or quinoa. Load up on cancer-fighting antioxidants in the form of blueberries, strawberries, and dark leafy greens. And don't forget about the importance of lean protein. If you're a vegetarian, you can get most of your protein from nuts, vegetables, and grains such as quinoa.
4. Conduct Breast Self-Exams
Many women avoid regular breast exams because they're afraid of what they'll find. The truth, though, is that most lumps aren't cancerous. Study after study has convincingly demonstrated that women are far less likely to develop or die from cancer if they conduct regular screenings. So ditch the fear, and do one of the very best things you'll ever do for your health. And—bonus!--breast exams can help you get to know and love your body!
You probably already know that breastfeeding is great for babies, but research suggests it's equally beneficial to moms. Women who breastfeed their babies for a total of at least a year—which can mean breastfeeding two babies for six months each—have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to women who never breastfeed and those who only briefly did so.