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What Really Works to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

Everyday Habits to Help Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

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Scientists have discovered that one of the most important weapons in the fight against breast cancer isn’t a screening test or a pill—it’s you. Yes, small choices you make every day can help lower your chances of getting the disease. “The vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have any risk factors other than being a woman and getting older,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., the medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In fact, she says, 90 to 95 percent of breast cancers may be influenced by lifestyle factors. So we scoured the research to find strategies with the biggest impact. The best part: You’re probably already doing some of them. (Psst... Did you hear the American Cancer Society Released Major Updates to Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines?)

Walk for an Hour a Day to Reduce Your Odds By 14%

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But if you bump up the pace, you bump up the benefits: A French study found that four to seven hours per week of vigorous activity decreases your breast cancer risk by 31 percent. Working out harder burns more fat, which helps rid your body of excess estrogen, a hormone that may help cancer cells grow. Along with walking, studies have shown How Weights and Cardio Cut Breast Cancer Risk.

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Order the Bean Burger at Lunch to Reduce Your Odds By 19%

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Swap one serving of red meat a day with a serving of legumes—for instance, soybeans (edamame or tofu), beans, lentils, or peas, suggests research from the Harvard School of Public Health. Legumes are rich in risk-reducing nutrients, including fiber.

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Sip Tea with Each Meal to Reduce Your Odds By 37%

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Black and green brews contain cancer-fighting polyphenols, but they stay in your system for only about eight hours. Filling your mug three times daily keeps them in your body all day, research in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention shows.

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Install Blackout Shades In Your Bedroom to Reduce Your Odds By 50%

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Being exposed to light at night suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, which also has immune-boosting effects, the journal Chronobiology International reports. “Low levels of melatonin lead to DNA changes that can increase the production of breast cancer cells,” says Abraham Haim, Ph.D., the study’s author.

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Snack on One Pear Plus a Half Cup of Peanuts to Reduce Your Odds By 26%

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That plus half an avocado for lunch and a cup of brussels sprouts for dinner will bring you to your goal of adding 10 grams of soluble fiber to your diet daily. The nutrient helps keep insulin in check—and high insulin levels may double your risk of cancer.

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Consume Every Color to Reduce Your Odds By 32%

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Brightly hued fruits and veggies—tomatoes, oranges, bell peppers, leafy greens, and berries—are chock-full of carotenoids, antioxidant compounds that protect your DNA from free radicals to keep breast cancer at bay, a study from Brigham and Young Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School revealed.

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Break Your Elevator Habit to Reduce Your Odds By 38%

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Getting more activity during your workday, including climbing the stairs, prevents weight gain and lowers levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, thereby reducing breast cancer risk, a study in the American Journal of Public Health found. Just standing up more cuts risk by 16 percent. Set a smartphone alarm to remind yourself to get out of your chair and stretch every hour. (Find out more from women who have been impacted in "What I Wish I Knew About Breast Cancer in My 20s.")

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Hit the Sleep Sweet Spot to Reduce Your Odds By 62%

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You need seven hours (and definitely no less than six), according to a study in the British Journal of Cancer. For a little extra help dozing off, try sipping eight ounces of tart cherry juice with breakfast and dinner. In a Louisiana State University study, this drink netted participants 84 more minutes of shut-eye.

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