Today, according to the National Cancer Institute, 12.4 percent of women born in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Yes, that means women have a one in eight chance, making it one of the most common types of cancer out there, responsible for more than 40,000 deaths every year. And once you reach 40, your risk of getting a diagnosis begins to increase exponentially, eventually doubling every decade until you reach 70. Chances are, this disease has affected you, whether it’s from personal diagnosis or that of a family member or friend. (This week, in fact, Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, age 56, revealed her own breast-cancer diagnosis on social media.)
While it’s no secret that there’s no cure to this horrible disease, there are things women in middle age can do to arm themselves against the insidious forces of breast cancer (or even from having a relapse). Here we’ve compiled 40 science-backed ways—from eating better to being a smarter at personal diagnostics to knowing your family’s medical history. So read on—and for more great health advice, don’t miss these 10 Surefire Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
Limit your time sitting.
It doesn’t matter how much exercise you get—it can’t counteract the harmful effects of sitting for long periods. The American Cancer Society found that women who sit six-hours or more a day sitting have a 10 percent more likely chance to develop breast cancer and other cancers. Cutting down on sitting and switching to a standing desk is also one of 7 Ways to Conquer Lower Back Pain Once and For All.
Eat berries for breakfast.
Berries are packed with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties with well-known cancer-fighting properties. And according to a study published last year in the journal Antioxidants, they’ve been found to also help reduce the growth of breast cancer cells.
Think twice before doing hormonal replacement therapy.
According to research published in the journal Lancet, there’s evidence that there’s a link between women using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and an increased risk of a breast cancer diagnosis. So be sure to discuss all the risks of HRT with your doctor before heading down that path.
Limit your alcohol intake.
A glass of wine after a long day is totally OK. But according to the American Cancer Center, the less alcohol you drink, the better you’ll be when it comes to reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Consider breast-feeding when you have kids.
Yes, it’s definitely a personal choice. But consider the fact that breast-feeding can lower breast cancer risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
Don’t consume too much sugar.
Try your best to avoid any added sugar in your diet. According to a study done at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, high amounts of sugar in today’s Western diets may increase the risk of breast cancer as it can increase tumor growth.
Eat the best grains.
When it’s time to carb up, be sure you’re taking in whole grains. According to the American Cancer Society, the fiber in them helps cut your risk for breast cancer.
Consider the timeline of your pregnancy.
Not to put on too much pressure on you and your relationships, but according to the National Cancer Institute, women who had a baby after the age of 30 has a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Know your breast density.
It’s important to have a radiologist inform you about the mammographic density of your breast tissue. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, dense tissue makes your breast cancer risk up to six times higher.
Check your genealogy.
If your mother or grandmother has had breast cancer, be sure that they’ve also been tested for the BRCA gene. Five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary, so knowing if you’re at risk can help with early prevention.
But don’t ignore your father’s history, too.
Though it’s often overlooked, men can carry the BRCA 1 and 2 gene, too. So be sure to know your father’s medical history, too.
Eat Brussels sprouts.
When you eat Brussels sprouts, they’re broken down to form biologically active compounds, which, according to the National Cancer Institute, help prevent the development of breast cancer.
Minimize radiation exposure from screening tests.
Think dental exams, airport security screening, diagnostic x-rays, and CT scans. Try to limit the amount of radiation you’re exposed to, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Load up on antioxidant foods.
Antioxidants include vitamins such as C, E, and other phytochemicals. According to the American Cancer Society, these superfoods can help reverse cell damage and therefore help prevent breast cancer.
Get all the facts about in vitro.
While the jury is still out on whether or not in vitro fertilization directly increases rick of breast cancer, some studies show that it does, including a 2016 one published in the Journal of American Medical Association. In vitro fertilization, the researchers report, affects your hormone levels—so be sure to speak with your doctor about any concerns you have before the procedure is performed.
Don’t fear garlic breath.
According to the National Cancer Institute, garlic contains antibacterial properties and helps fight off the risk of breast cancer.
Trade vegetarian for pescatarian.
Fish, especially varieties like salmon, sardines, and tuna, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. According to data compiled by the Susan G. Komen foundation, these fats have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Hit the gym.
Whether it’s running, group fitness classes, tennis, or swimming, find an activity that will help you incorporate fitness into your daily life. According to Breastcancer.org, regular exercise can lower your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Up your dietary fiber intake.
Fiber keeps you full, but it also lowers your risk of developing breast cancer. That’s because it supports the digestive system by eliminating waste. Aim to get 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day.
Focus on your bodyweight.
If the scales haven’t been tipping in your favor lately, it’s time to try doing something about it. According to JAMA, women with a lower BMI also had a lower risk of getting breast cancer.
Load up on all whole fruits and veggies.
Not only are they healthy for you, but fruits and veggies can also help prevent the progression of breast cancer. According to the Ida & Joseph Friend Cancer Center, you should get between 8 and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every single day.
Limit or avoid dietary supplements.
Some people may think that certain supplements can help fight breast cancer. But many supplements aren’t even regulated by the FDA, and, according to the American Cancer Society, some have been shown to increase breast cancer risk. So consult your doctor before taking any.
Add turmeric to your dishes.
Tumeric is yellow thanks to the chemical in it called curcumin. And according to research published in The Journal of Breast Cancer, curcumin has chemopreventative and antitumoral properties, which fight against breast cancer.
Spend some time in the sun.
The higher your vitamin D levels, the better. According to the National Cancer Institute, individuals with lower levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of tumor progression.
Be wary of birth control pills.
Get all the information on the pill you’re considering before taking it. Ones that use hormones may increase breast cancer risk, according to the American Cancer Society.
Learn to love onions.
Some of our stinkiest of foods also have some of the best benefits. According to the journal Cancer Prevention Research, onions (and other foods in the same family) contain allyl sulfide, which can help prevent breast cancer risk.
Chow down on pomegranate.
Not only are the seeds tasty, but they also—according to the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity—reduce inflammation and contain antioxidants than can help fight the growth of breast cancer.
Ask about drugs during pregnancy.
Don’t just think about the present; consider your future as well. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, women who took the drug DES during pregnancy to reduce the chance of miscarriage have higher risk of breast cancer.
Snack on walnuts.
Go nuts! According the journal Nutrition and Cancer, the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytosterols in this healthy snack have been linked to slowing cancer growth.
Limit the amount of red and processed meat you eat.
If you’re a bacon and steak lover, you may want to consider cutting back. According to the World Health Organization, these are classified as carcinogens, which have been linked to causing cancer.
Have soy, but don’t overdo it.
The debate has been ongoing, but research in the journal Carcinogenesis shows that soy intake lowers the risk of breast cancer in women. But having too much can affect hormone levels, so speak with a nutritionist or doctor if you have concerns.
Try a plant-based diet.
Veggies, and legumes, and whole grains—oh my. A study of 91,000 women conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that a plant-based diet cut the risk of these women developing breast cancer by 15 percent.
Use a ventilation fan when you cook.
Exposure to toxins and chemicals, according to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, may increase your risk of breast cancer. So avoiding your exposure to fumes and gasses can help lower your risk.
Drink green tea.
If you’re a green tea drinker, you probably know about many of its benefits. But you may not be familiar with the catechins in the tea, which research has proven aides in breast cancer prevention.
Sprinkle flaxseed on everything.
This superfood has benefits out the wazoo, but one at the top of the list is its anti-cancer properties. Thanks to the lignin in it, it can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Get an air purifier.
Especially if you live in a place where you have a lot of exposure to exhaust fumes and fuel. These biomarkers have been found to increase risk of breast cancer, so the cleaner the air you breathe, the better.
Eat colorful salads.
Carotenoids, or vegetables and fruits like carrots and tomatoes that have a yellow, orange and red color, along with cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale have been linked to slowing tumor growth and reducing breast cancer risk.
Find a dry cleaner that doesn’t use PERC.
Doesn’t use what? PERC, also known as tetrachlorethylene, is a solvent commonly used to dry clean fabrics. The issue? It’s also been linked to causing cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Ask your dry cleaner if they use this substance before leaving your clothes in their hands.
Don’t be present when repainting your house.
Strange but true—according to Environmental Health Perspectives, paint removers have been named one of the biomarkers that are linked to increase breast cancer risk. Consider it your excuse not to have to deal with the painters!
Yes, and this applies to every cancer. (And for the record, smoking is also one of big 17 Lifestyle Habits That Are Ruining Your Brain.)
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