“Cancer is not an inevitability. Women have more control over the disease than they think,” says Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, author of A World Without Cancer. Breast cancer is a scary topic, but it’s definitely worthy of discourse. According to the American Cancer Society, women in the United States have a 1 in 8 chances of developing the disease.
From everything we eat to all the products we use, some factors can turn on or off the genetic switches in your body, including the ones responsible for cancer. If you want to reduce your chances of developing this deadly disease, here are ten healthy habits you need to start adding to your lifestyle.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
The risk of an overweight or obese woman is much higher than that of a leaner woman. Dr. Peddi Parvin of the University of California explains that fat cells release substances including insulin and estrogen, which contribute to the development of breast cancer.
If you are already at a healthy weight, maintain it. If you are carrying extra pounds, then try to lose some. One study found that a weight loss of just five percent could reduce your risk by up to 40 percent. Another recent discovery also revealed that women who had a body mass index of over 35 and were considered obese were 60 percent more susceptible to an invasive breast cancer compared to those who maintain a healthy body weight.
Give Up Red Meat
In a 20-year study of almost 89,000 women, scientists found out that those who ate the most red meat increased their chance of breast cancer by around 25 percent. Alternatively, replacing a daily serving of red meat with a combination of nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry appears to lower the risk by 14 percent.
Cut Back On Booze
More than 100 studies have already shown that alcoholic beverages – be it beer, wine, or liquor – can increase a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol damages the DNA in cells and increases estrogen levels in your body. Compared to non-drinkers, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent higher risk growing cancerous breast tumors. Even the World Health Organization lists alcohol as a ‘Class One Carcinogen,’ which makes reduced alcohol consumption a golden rule for breast cancer prevention.
Say No To Extremely Processed Foods
Instant noodles, chicken nuggets, sodas, and frozen meals have become a huge part of many people’s diet, especially those who live in the cities where all convenience stores and fast food restaurants have them. These extremely processed goods, along with many others, may open a painful breast cancer chapter in your life down the road. A study published in BMJ shows that these products lead to a 10 percent increase in the risk of all types of cancer, including that of the breast.
Cook With Olive Oil
Olive oil is a staple in the healthy and life-extending Mediterranean diet. In a study of 4,300 women, those who consumed extra servings of extra virgin olive oil had 62 percent fewer breast cancer diagnoses than those who relied on nuts as well as those who only cut back on fats.
Watch Out For Changes In Your Breast
If you feel that something on your breasts seem out of the ordinary, check in with your doctor. Dr. Therese Bevers of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center says that early warning signs of the disease often include a lump or mass, redness or swelling, scaliness, and dimpling of the nipple. Do not hesitate to bring up any changes that you notice about your breasts to your physician.
Physical activities seem to protect against breast cancer in several ways. Apart from helping you lose weight, exercise alters estrogen metabolism, proving your body with ‘good’ hormones that fight cancer. That doesn’t mean have to start training like a superhero. In fact, walking briskly from one to three hours daily can significantly give your health a boost compared to inactive women. The American Cancer Society recommends aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, which breaks down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
Get Enough Sleep
With so many aspects of your life that needs your attention, it is easy to forget about getting the right amount of sleep before you start your day again. The average 7 hours of sleep a day should be your goal if you want to keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Studies show that having less of that raises breast cancer risk by a whopping 50 percent. Sleeping too much or more than nine hours is not good either and it has the same adverse effect on your body.
Grab More Fiber
Whether it comes from vegetables, whole grains, or fruits, fiber is good for breast health. Research reveals that for every 10 grams of fiber added to a woman’s diet daily can prevent the development of the disease by five percent. Harvard researchers also recently found that women who had the highest carotenoid intake had a 19 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. This is a nutrient found in highly pigmented produce like carrots, tomatoes, and red peppers.
Dr. Anne McTiernan, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center says that while results have been mixed about the effects of smoking on breast health, it’s best to play it safe. After all, smoking tobacco is already linked to 15 more different types of cancers including that of the lungs and pancreas. Smoking is such an important risk factor for cancer in general that it makes sense to quit.
Don’t let your health fall to the wayside. We’ve seen an increase in the number of breast cancer survivors thanks to modern technologies, but that shouldn’t let you forget about the importance of prevention. Consult your healthcare team about the lifestyle changes you wish to make to ensure that you are on the right track.