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7 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Health + Wellness

Every health organization that is working to fight a disease talks about "raising awareness." But in the case of breast cancer, there are few people who aren't already "aware." It's the most common cancer in women. With diagnosed cases on the rise and one in eight women likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime, virtually everyone knows someone who has had it. And it often seems like it strikes at random, caused by unfathomable outside forces.

One in eight women are likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

And it's true, you can't lay out a routine to absolutely inoculate yourself against it. But there are some simple things you can do in your everyday life that will lower your risk, increase your chances of survival if you are diagnosed and pay plenty of other health dividends as well.

1. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This is one of those "duh" things that's good for just about every health issue you might face. You've read over and over that this or that plant-based "superfood" contains antioxidant minerals and compounds that help protect against cancer. Believe it. While some doctors or nutrition experts may tout a particular food or substance, there's no single one that is going to give you blanket protection. But stepping up the number of different plant foods you add to your diet can only be beneficial.

2. Cut down on dairy products and meat, especially processed, smoked and cured meats. They're not horrible for you in limited amounts, but in general, Americans tend to eat way too much of them. The good news is that lopsided, meat-heavy diets are starting to give way to more balanced eating as healthier cuisines have replaced the old meat-and-potatoes routine.

3. Cut WAY down on fats and sugary, salty processed foods. Fatty foods just shouldn't make up much of your diet, and chemical-laden processed foods may contain compounds that have been linked to cancer. Anything with a long list of chemical names you can't decipher or mystery ingredients such as "flavor" is something it's probably best to avoid.

4. Studies have suggested that getting enough fiber in your diet and eating foods containing soy may have some benefits both in warding off breast cancer and improving survival prospects after diagnosis. Most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified so if you are concerned about GMOs, you'll want to pay attention to that.

5. Maintain a healthy weight. You don't need to look like a 110-pound movie star or model. But not carrying around extra pounds lowers your risk of several types of cancer as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

6. Get regular exercise, even if it's just taking a walk each day. Sedentary women are more at risk than those who are active, and have fewer defense mechanisms if they are diagnosed.

7. Environmental factors have been suggested as an underlying factor in the rise in breast cancer cases. So don't live near a fracking site, oil well or coal-fired power plant if you can help it! Hint: pink fracking drill bits are NOT helping to fight breast cancer. Seriously, if you'd like to help cut breast cancer for all women, join the fight to clean up the air, water and soil. Not only will people be healthier in general, but you'll be helping fight climate change.

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