According to nonprofit Breastcancer.org, one in eight women in the United States will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime. But while many risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer, can't be avoided, research has revealed a few habits that might help reduce your risk for breast cancer. What's more, many of them are fairly simple things we can do now to help keep us healthier in the future. They're not a guarantee, of course, but if there's a chance they might make a difference, they're worth trying all the same.
This year, an estimated 255,180 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States.. What's more, although U.S. breast cancer mortality rates have been declining since 1989, around 40,610 American women are expected to die from breast cancer this year.
But while there is no definitive way to prevent cancer, and while you can't change your genetic risk of developing the illness (about 5five to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary and caused by genes passed from parent to child), there are some risk factors that you can control. As well as the usual advice on living a generally healthy lifestyle, there's also research available on the risks and benefits associated with certain contraceptives and whether or not breastfeeding and having children can help lower your risk for breast cancer.
Of course, these elements shouldn't force you to change your life entirely; nobody's going to suggest you have children or change your contraceptives if those options aren't right for you. But knowing what scientific studies hold weight is key to making informed decisions about your own health. Here are just a few recommendations.
1Follow The Mediterranean Diet
According to The Guardian, a large 2017 study from the World Cancer Research Fund recently found that following a Mediterranean diet can significantly help reduce your chance of developing estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer by 40 percent. This type of diet is defined as one that is rich in olive oil, fish, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains — and it has plenty of other benefits, too, liking helping to reduce cholesterol and risk of stroke and heart disease.
Being sedentary is thought to increase your risk of getting breast cancer — especially if you're a woman. Women who sit for an additional six hours outside of work have a 10 percent increased risk of developing certain types of cancer (breast and ovarian, to name two) than those who sit for less than three hours of their free time, according to the American Cancer Society. The society recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense or 75 minutes of intense exercise each week to help offset the risks.
3If You Plan On Having Kids, Breastfeed Or Chestfeed If You Can
Interestingly, people who have kids who also chestfeed for the first six months benefit from a 10 percent reduced risk of death from cancer compared with those who don't, found a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Not every parent or child is able to breastfeed, and that's totally fine; if you are able to do so, though, consider this an added benefit. What's more, other research suggests that having children in and of itself can lower the chance of developing breast cancer. (But again, it's an added benefit — if you don't want to have kids, that's of course also fine!)
4Find Out Your Family History
Knowing as much about your family history as possible can help reduce your risk of breast cancer. As mentioned above, five to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary, but knowing your dad's family's genes is just as important as knowing your mother's. Dina Roth Port at Prevention also notes that knowing what type of other cancers run in your family is important, too, writing, "Men can carry some of the same aberrant genes, such as BRCA1 and 2, that up the risk of not only breast cancer but also ovarian cancer in women, pancreatic cancer in men and women, and early prostate and testicular cancers in men." She adds, "Also, multiple diagnoses on either side of your family can be a clue to a hereditary link. You may know that the medical history of first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) is most important for assessing risk, but take a look at second- and third-degree relatives, too (aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews)."
6Check Your Breasts Regularly
As noted by Prevention, the American Cancer Society (ACS) states that if you catch breast cancer early, the prognosis is often excellent. In fact, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer that's found early and confined to the breast is 99 percent. Checking your breasts regularly and thoroughly and seeking medical assistance immediately if you find anything unusual is vital. Here's a guide to performing a breast self-exam; you might also want to check out this photo of lemons. (Yes, really.)