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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), not counting some kinds of skin cancers, in the United States, breast cancer is:
- The most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity
- The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women
- The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in reducing your risk of breast cancer.
Below are four areas where making healthy choices can help keep you (and the girls) healthy and happy.
1. Keep weight in a healthy range
According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Electronic Physician, higher-weight postmenopausal women who do not take hormone therapy have a higher risk of breast cancer. This is likely because of the drop in hormones after menopause.
A study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research noted that “there is a large body of evidence that obesity is associated with a 25 to 50% relative increase in the risk of breast cancer occurrence and death.”
Obesity is also associated with insulin resistance, which has been linked to “an increased risk of recurrence and death in women with early stage breast cancer.”
So, to reduce your risk of breast cancer, aim to keep your weight in a healthy range. If you’re concerned about hormones during menopause, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy.
2. Be active
A sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for breast cancer. The research shows women can decrease their risk of breast cancer by engaging in regular exercise.
There are many reasons for this. Exercise can reduce obesity and insulin resistance, as mentioned above. In postmenopausal women, exercise and physical activity change estrogen, insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in positive ways.
Regular physical activity of just about any kind can help reduce your risk.
3. Stop smoking cigarettes
Tobacco use not only increases the risk of breast cancer but of other kinds of cancer as well. There’s a ton of evidence that smoking causes your body a lot of harm, and that quitting smoking can help reduce your breast cancer risk.
Quitting smoking is tough, but worth it. There are a lot of resources available online, at your doctor’s office, and through the American Heart Association to help you quit.
Research shows it takes an estimated 30 attempts to quit smoking before it sticks. So, the sooner you start trying to quit, the sooner it’ll finally happen!
4. Reduce alcohol consumption
Several large studies have shown that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. And that the risk increases with higher amounts of regular alcohol use.
If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start! And if you do, aim to have one drink or less per day.
Putting healthy habits into action
If making these changes seems overwhelming or impossible to you at the moment, take heart. You don’t have to overhaul your lifestyle overnight to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Start by making one change, like making a commitment to exercise 3 times a week. And remember, “exercise” doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself at the gym, lifting weights and running the treadmill. Do something you enjoy.
Life’s short enough as it is, there’s no point in spending your precious time doing something you hate, just so you can live longer and have more time to do the things you hate!
So find something you can see yourself doing regularly, forever. Maybe it’s walking, hiking in the woods, swimming, practicing yoga, riding your bike or taking spin classes… it doesn’t matter so long as you like it and want to keep doing it.
When that change becomes part of your routine, add in another adjustment, like eating 1 to 2 meals of whole, nutritious foods a week. You can find recipes for one-sheet meals, one-pot meals, 5-ingredient dinners, crockpot recipes…
The list of simple, delicious and healthy recipes out there is endless!
That’s the trick to changing your lifestyle. Small, consistent choices that boost your health, rather than deplete it.
Here’s to happy, healthy breasts now and into the future!
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- Breast Cancer Statistics — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Lifestyle Changes for the Prevention of Breast Cancer — Electron Physician
- Insulin resistance in breast cancer: Relevance and clinical implications — Breast Cancer Research
- Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers — BMJ Open
- Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 — health.gov