Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to learn how to reduce your risk by eating right and engaging in physical activity. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer, a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing it and boost your odds of full recovery if you are diagnosed with it.

All women are vulnerable to developing breast cancer but certain women are at a higher risk. Although some risk factors can’t be controlled, such as family history, gene mutations, onset of menstruation and menopause, other risk factors can be reduced by focusing on nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Weight is closely connected with breast cancer risk and risk increases for those with overweight or obesity after reaching menopause. Engaging in regular physical activity is associated with reduced breast cancer risk and is one way to help promote a healthy body weight. For optimal health, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity most days of the week.

Certain foods — high in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients — may help protect against some cancers. These foods include a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, such as:

  • Cruciferous and dark, leafy green vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and kale
  • Fruits: Citrus, berries, pomegranate and cherries
  • Whole grains: Oats, whole grain barley, bulgur, whole rye and whole-grain breads and cereals
  • Legumes: Beans and peas, lentils and soybeans

Alcohol intake also is linked with breast cancer risk. If you are a female of legal age and choose to drink, limit your intake to no more than one serving of alcohol per day. (A serving of alcohol is considered 1½ fluid ounces of hard liquor, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer.)

To learn more about healthful eating to reduce your risk of breast cancer and other diseases, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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