Lifestyle changes to help minimize the risk

Current or recent use of birth control pills

Current or recent use of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. Studies show that while women are taking birth control pills (and shortly thereafter), their risk of breast cancer increases by 20 to 30 percent higher than women who have never used the pill.

Eating healthy food

Diet is thought to be partly responsible for about 30% to 40% of all cancers. While no food or diet can prevent you from getting breast cancer, some foods can make your body the healthiest it can be, boosting your immune system and reducing the risk for breast cancer. A person’s diet can promote anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory conditions in the health of the subject. Breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is plant-based.

Physical activity

Women who get regular exercise (physical activity) may have a lower risk of breast cancer than women who are inactive. Regular exercise can help lower the risk of breast cancer in several ways. It helps us manage our weight by burning more calories, limiting food cravings, and improving self-image. Exercise also helps regulate hormone and blood sugar levels that can trigger extra cell activity. When breast cells are exposed to extra estrogen over time, the risk of developing breast cancer is higher. Fat cells in the body make estrogen, and excess fat will increase estrogen in the body, increasing the risk of breast cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen, and greater extra fat cells make extra estrogen. When breast cells are exposed to extra estrogen over time, the risk of developing breast cancer is higher.

Overweight and/or obese

Overweight and obese women — defined as having a BMI (body mass index) over 25 — have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight can also increase the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) in women who have already had the disease. This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body, and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.

History of Smoking

Although findings on a possible link to breast cancer remain mixed, there is growing evidence that smoking may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. Some studies show that smoking long-term, starting early in life, especially before a first pregnancy, may increase risk later in life. Smoking causes double trouble both by causing cell damage and by impairing the healing process. Unhealthy, cancer-causing chemicals from smoke go to all parts of the body. Blood vessels are narrowed, blood flow is reduced, toxins build up in tissues, and cell damage occurs. Smoking increases the risk of many cancers, but its effect on breast cancer is still under study.

Know your vitamin D3 level

Research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D may play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing altogether. In 2009, a pre-menopausal population of breast cancer patients were researched, in which their vitamin D levels were compared to matched controls. Research showed an almost 60% reduction in the risk of breast cancer among patients with higher levels of vitamin D compared to those with the lowest levels.

Alcoholic drinks per day

Research found that for each alcoholic drink consumed per day, the relative risk of breast cancer increases by about seven percent. Women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that breast cancer risk goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day. Teen and tween girls aged 9 to 15 who drink three to five drinks a week have had three times the risk of developing benign breast lumps. Over 14% of American women drink moderately (an average of 3-7 drinks a week) or heavily (an average of more than 7 drinks a week). Alcohol can both interfere with the breakdown of estrogen and increase the production of estrogen. It can also make the estrogen receptors inside breast cells more sensitive to estrogen. More prolonged and greater alcohol use in women produces more harmful effects, leading to a higher risk of breast cancer. Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers. These higher estrogen levels may, in turn, increase the risk of breast cancer.

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