Did you know that about one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime? As of January 2018, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. Research on diet and breast cancer is ongoing and there is no one perfect strategy to prevent breast cancer.
However, some foods and lifestyle habits can make your body the healthiest it can be and keep your risk for breast cancer as low as possible.
Get screened regularly
While mammograms may not help prevent breast cancer, it can help find cancer when it is early and most treatable. For most women, regular mammograms can begin at age 40.
Overweight or obesity dramatically increases the risk of breast cancer and other chronic diseases; this is especially true if obesity occurs later in life. If you are not sure what an ideal weight is for your body type, calculate your body mass index online using a BMI calculator. A healthy BMI range falls between 18.5 to 25 kg/m².
Follow a plant-based diet
This consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains. Aim to eat 8 to 10 colorful fruit and vegetable servings daily; this will also help you meet your daily fiber goals and keep your body in peak nutritional state.
Avoid processed and refined carbohydrates
High sugar foods tend to be very processed, low in nutritional value and appear to increase serum insulin and insulin-like growth factor that can stimulate cancer cell growth. Try to limit white bread, pasta, and rice (opt for whole grains). Be careful with white sugar in items such as cakes and cookies and use moderation when it comes to sweets.
Focus on healthy fats
Research has found a protective relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and breast cancer. Some studies even show that omega-3’s can inhibit breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis. Strive to include healthy fats such as salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, olive oil and avocados in your diet.
Check your Vitamin D
Some studies have found an inverse relationship between breast cancer risk and serum 25 (OH) vitamin D levels. Ask your doctor about having a vitamin D blood test. Maintain your level above 40 ng/mL through diet and, if needed, supplements.
Water is essential for carrying nutrients throughout the body. Don’t neglect the simple task of meeting your hydration needs, which is needed for proper digestion of a high fiber diet.
Women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. If you hate cardio, try strength training or pilates. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and can commit to on a regular basis.
Even small amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. Try to slowly decrease the amount you drink, and try diluting alcohol with seltzer.
Quit smoking, for good
Did you know that at least 15 cancers, including breast cancer, are linked to smoking? More evidence is suggesting that there is a strong link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Take control and make a change to quit smoking today.
Stefani Pappas, MS, RDN, CDN, CPT, is a Clinical Dietitian at The Cancer Institute at St. Francis Hospital. She also provides private nutrition counseling at her office in Great Neck, NY. Visit www.StefHealthTips.com for more information or call 516- 225-1745 to schedule an appointment.