One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. You can lower your risk of being one of the 12 percent by doing these things:
Breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast cancer because milk production limits the cells’ ability to cause problems. Breastfeeding women also typically avoid alcohol and cigarettes, factors that can increase the risk of cancer. Protection from breast cancer increases the longer you breastfeed, according to Mayo Clinic.
Regular exercise lowers your risk of breast cancer by 10 to 20 percent. The American Cancer Society recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. You don’t have to run a marathon; taking a leisure walk will do.
Sunscreen protects us from harmful UV rays, but research shows that exposure at certain levels can cause the sunscreen’s chemicals to increase your risk of cancer. Experts suggest wearing a hat and long-sleeve shirts outside to protect your skin. However, long sleeves on a sunny day can leave you feeling hot and sticky. To avoid this uncomfortable feeling, experts recommend wearing sunscreen that contains titanium or zinc.
Women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Fat cells create estrogen, which can cause breast cancer to develop and spread. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight. The National Institutes of Health created a tool to help you determine your BMI; you can find out yours here.
While the pill cuts your risk of some types of cancer (such as ovarian and uterine), it slightly increases your risk of breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The American Cancer Society suggests reducing the amount of years you use birth control pills. If you take the pill for less than five years, you probably won’t increase your risk.
There are several valid reasons for taking birth control pills such as regulating your menstrual cycle and preventing pregnancy. Because of the widely varying pros and cons, it is best to talk to your doctor about what contraception method is best for you.
A healthy lifestyle will reduce your risk of breast cancer, and it is especially important to limit your alcohol intake. Women who consume three alcoholic beverages a week increase their risk by 15 percent compared to women who don’t drink, according to breastcancer.org. That doesn’t mean you have to cut out alcohol completely, but limit yourself to two or fewer drinks a week.
Smoking is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women, according to breastcancer.org. In addition, smoking can cause complications in breast cancer treatments. If you are currently smoking, consider joining the American Cancer Society’s program to quit or join Breastcancer.org’s support thread.
Being aware of these seven things not only reduces your risk of breast cancer, but also creates a healthy lifestyle in general. When you prioritize your health, you also make your loved ones a priority. Preventing breast cancer is not just for you; it affects your whole family.