October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we can think of no better way to observe it than by helping you avoid this terrible disease. While there’s no way to completely eliminate your chance of breast cancer due to genetics, family history, race, ethnicity, and breast density, there are steps you can take to support your breast health and overall physical health at any age.
Here are the ten best ways to help limit your risk of breast cancer.
1. Get Mammograms on a Regular Basis
Mammograms are used to check for breast cancer when you don’t have symptoms. This is important because many people don’t experience symptoms in the early stages of breast cancer. But regular screenings can detect cancer early when it’s easiest to treat.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Like many items on this list, this step is good for your overall health, but especially for breast health. According to the National Cancer Institute, excess weight and obesity after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer and can worsen outcomes at any age.
3. Limit or Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol
Even a few alcoholic beverages each week can increase your risk of breast cancer. Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of breast and other cancers and is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health.
4. Educate Yourself on the Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Pay attention to your breasts. Are there lumps or thickening in your breast or underarm area? Is the skin on your breast flaking? These are a couple of signs and symptoms of breast cancer but be sure to educate yourself about all of them and be sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect something is different with your breasts.
5. Be Active
Exercise plays a role in preventing breast cancer. Cardio and strength training can not only help people maintain a healthy body weight but can also improve outcomes and reduce recurrence after a breast cancer diagnosis.
6. Know Your Family History
It’s common to focus on your maternal lineage, but it’s just as important to look on your father’s side, too, when considering breast cancer.
7. Eat Less Meat
Studies have found that a higher intake of red meat (such as beef, pork, veal, and lamb), animal fats, and processed meat (bacon, deli meats, sausages, etc.) are correlated with a greater risk of breast and other cancers.
8. Eat More Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains
A diet low in fruits and vegetables is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, particularly estrogen receptor (ER)–negative breast cancer. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains are outstanding sources of fiber, which may play a role in breast cancer risk reduction.
9. Breastfeed if Possible
Breastfeeding can protect you from breast cancer. While the link between breastfeeding and lower breast cancer rates has not been fully explained, the protection is well worth it and is healthy for your little one.
10. Know Your Options
Talking to your doctor is the best way to understand your risk factors for breast cancer. If you have a higher risk of getting breast cancer, there are options that can help with early detection and prevention.