Ways to reduce breast cancer risk

The rate of breast cancer is increasing each year as more women are diagnosed with the disease. Breast cancer has many possible causes and each woman has a variety of risk factors that can increase her chance of developing breast cancer, some of which she has no control over. But there are many risk factors can be influenced by choices made during her lifetime. Making healthy choices can reduce your likelihood of breast cancer and many other diseases.

Reduce your alcohol intake

Research has shown a strong link between alcohol and the risk of developing breast cancer, and breast cancer returning. To reduce your risk of breast cancer, try to limit your alcohol intake to two standard drinks a day.

Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life

Women who put on a lot of weight in adulthood, particularly after menopause, may have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Be active

Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. The exact amount of physical activity needed to reduce your risk is not yet clear but studies show that moderate exercise, like a brisk walk, can be enough to reduce your cancer risk. And the more you do, the greater the benefits.

Have children early and breastfeed if you can

Although your choices about having children are made for a variety of reasons, not having children or having them later in life can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. And the reverse is true as well; having more children early in life and breastfeeding (12 months or more) provides long-lasting protection from breast cancer.

Eat well

A healthy diet, of at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day, may help to reduce your risk of cancer. Research recommends sticking to low-fat dairy products, limiting how much red meat and sugar you eat to prevent increasing your risk of breast cancer.

Try not to stress

There is no conclusive evidence that stress causes the initial development of breast cancer, however people under stress may develop certain behaviours, such as smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol, which increase their risk for cancer.

Avoid long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Many women use HRT to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and/or osteoporosis, to boost female hormones estrogen, progesterone and levels that lower with age. However, there is evidence to suggest that using long-term use of HRT increases the risk of breast cancer and other health problems. However, once HRT use ends, the risk returns to normal levels.

Don’t smoke

There have been a number of studies conducted to investigate the relationship between active cigarette smoking and breast cancer risk. A landmark study conducted in the USA in recent years demonstrated an association between active smoking and breast cancer risk, specifically for women who had started smoking at a very early age and before their first pregnancy.  Smoking should always be avoided to prevent a range of diseases and to maximise overall health and wellbeing.

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