Breast Cancer Prevention
You can't change your family history or when you started your period (studies indicate that a first menstrual period at age 12 or earlier increases breast-cancer risk). But there are things you can do to lower your breast-cancer risk.
1. Hold your weight steady
Study after study has found that women over 40 who weigh close to the same amount that they did in their 20s are less likely to get this disease. Ideally, you should gain no more than 10 percent of your body weight (so if you weighed 120 in college, you shouldn't gain more than 12 pounds over the subsequent decades).
It appears that excess body fat not only produces its own estrogen, it also allows the hormone, which increases the risk of breast cancer, to circulate more freely in the blood.
The age at which a woman becomes overweight affects risk, as does where the fat goes. For some reason, there is less breast cancer in younger obese white women who accumulate fat on their hips and thighs. But these same women experience a rebound effect at menopause, when risk rises. In pre-menopausal black women, body mass doesn't seem to decrease or increase risk.
2. Pump up your produce
Fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help protect against all forms of cancer. Plus, they're low in calories, so loading up on them is an easy way to keep your weight in check. Studies have found that eating five servings of produce a day reduces the odds of a breast-cancer recurrence in women—young women in particular—especially when combined with daily exercise. Consuming more than that doesn't seem to have any additional preventive effect, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Your best bet: eating a wide variety of brightly colored produce.
3. Cut the fat
Studies on dietary fat have been conflicting and inconclusive, but most experts say it's still wise to steer clear of saturated fat as much as possible. Global research shows that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is low in total fat and saturated fat.