7. Imbibe intelligently
Many studies have found a link between alcohol and breast cancer. The risk becomes significant at about two drinks a day. More than one daily drink increases your odds of developing breast cancer by 20 percent or more. In one Norwegian study, those who had two or more drinks a day during the previous five years had an 82 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than those who didn't drink at all. Why? Alcohol may raise estrogen levels and interfere with the body's ability to use folic acid, a B vitamin that's been linked to cancer prevention.
One interesting caveat: Studies in the United States and Australia have found that women who drink but also get adequate amounts of folate don't have a higher risk of breast cancer. So if you tend to enjoy a glass or two of wine with your dinner on a regular basis, taking a multivitamin every day may be a wise idea. Even better, chow down on good sources of folate: spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, orange juice and green peas.
8. Fill up on fiber
A diet that's rich in fiber (30 or more grams a day) can halve the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women. Fiber-rich foods contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that are thought to be protective.
The more exercise is studied, the clearer it becomes that physical activity protects women. Women who exercise on a regular basis have lower levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor. These anabolic hormones promote cell division; when cells are constantly dividing and growing, there's a danger something will get pushed down the road to becoming cancer. High levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor seem to act as fuel, possibly helping cancer take off. Exercise also helps by lowering the circulating level of estrogens.
Exercise helps prevent the pounds from piling on as you age. And that's a good thing for your breasts, since excess body fat increases the production of the hormone estrogen, which fuels many types of breast cancer. "Carrying extra weight is a huge risk factor for the disease after menopause, so it's important to learn to control it while you're young," says Marji McCullough, Sc.D., a nutritional epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society.
Now a new study has pinpointed the amount of exercise and the intensity level you need to reap breast health benefits. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that women who regularly worked up a sweat for at least six hours every week were 23 percent less likely to get breast cancer than those who didn't exercise. Vigorous exercise shortens the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (the two or so weeks before you get your period), decreasing your exposure to estrogen.
7. Imbibe intelligently