According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent to 75 percent of all fatal cancers can be prevented simply by changing your diet and exercise habits. This includes breast cancer, whose incidence has increased 20 percent since 2008. It is now the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the U.S. This begs the question, “What should I be eating and how much exercise should I be doing to reduce my risk?”
There are certain foods and beverages that may increase risk and others that may decrease risk, therefore following these behaviors is not a guarantee that cancer will not develop or be prevented. With that said, here are the recommendations:
Limit alcohol consumption – Women who consume more than one alcoholic drink per day significantly increase their risk for developing breast cancer. For men, the limit is two drinks per day. Each of the following would be considered one drink:
- 6 fl. oz. of wine
- 1.5 fl. oz. of hard liquor
- 12 fl. oz. of beer
Limit saturated and trans fats – Recent research focused on cardiovascular disease risk has found that saturated fat may not be as bad for our health as we once thought, but when it comes to breast cancer risk, scientists are discovering that regular consumption of saturated and trans fats may increase your risk. Saturated fats that come from red meat sources (beef, pork, lamb) may be more harmful; trans fats from boxed cookies, crackers and pastries may also contribute to an increased risk.
Consume monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – These are most often found in plant-based foods like avocados, olives, nuts, seeds and whole grains. A recent study found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not.
Stay active – Exercise positively affects nearly every cell in the body. Therefore, it is no surprise that staying active may reduce your risk of breast cancer. A 2012 Mayo Clinic studyrecommends a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking at a medium pace in addition to strength training at least twice a week. Other studies have found significant reductions in all forms of cancer with 60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise (running, swimming, organized sports) five to seven days per week.