5 science-backed ways to lower your risk of breast cancer

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r. Edward Sickles MD (R) and Larisa Gurilnik RT look at films of breast x-rays at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 18, 2005 in San Francisco, California.
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SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 18: Dr. Edward Sickles MD (R) and Larisa Gurilnik RT look at films of breast x-rays at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 18, 2005 in San Francisco, California. The UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center continues to use the latest research and technology to battle cancer and was recently rated 16th best cancer center in the nation by US News and World Report.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women around the world.

There are a number of habits that put us at greater risk of breast cancer. Knowing what those habits are can help you take steps to decrease the risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research detailed the factors that can put women at greater risk for breast cancer. While there are some things women can’t control, certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on a woman’s risk.

Here’s what you can do to decrease your risk.


Exercise.

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Shutterstock

Exercising regularly and vigorously is one way to decrease your breast cancer risk. Studies have found that the risk of developing breast cancer is lower for women who are active than those who are inactive.

It’s something researchers are still studying. In 2016, Fitbit teamed up with leading cancer institute Dana Farber Cancer Institute to launch a 3,200-person study that looks at how breast cancer recurrence, or instances in which the cancer returns after a first round of treatment appears to knock it out, is affected by weight loss in overweight and obese people.


Maintain a healthy weight.

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Shutterstock

Obesity has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, along with pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, and thyroid cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can be a way to keep your risk of breast cancer low.


Breastfeed.

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Reuters

Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer for mothers. In 2002, a massive study of nearly 150,000 women found that for those who breastfed, the longer they breastfed the more protected they were against breast cancer.

For every 12 months a mother breastfed, her risk of breast cancer went down by about 4%. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed for their babies’ first six months.


Limit how much alcohol you drink.

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Unsplash / Michael Discenza

The evidence of alcohol’s association with an increased cancer risk is growing. Researchers have linked it to an increased risk of head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers.


Eat a diet high in non-starchy vegetables — and carrots.

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Flickr/Martin Cathrae

Eating non-starchy vegetables, foods with carotenoids like carrots and tomatoes, and foods that are high in calcium all might have an effect on lowering your risk of breast cancer. The AICR said that these dietary aspects still have limited evidence in their favor.

Having diets high in these types of foods, especially vegetables, is generally a good move for your overall health.


Know that there are some things you can’t control.

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Hollis Johnson

For all that can be controlled, certain factors including your genetics. A BRCA mutation can predispose you to an increased risk of breast cancer. The mutations takes your risk for breast cancer from 7% to an average of 55-65% when you have the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation. Being taller than average is also linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Your risk of breast cancer can also increase if you get your first period early or go through menopause late. If you have taken oral contraceptives that have estrogen and progesterone, they can increase risk as well, AICR notes.