The first step towards beating cancer is recognizing the link between lifestyle and the risk of getting breast cancer, or having breast cancer reoccur. The following is a list of easy to digest pieces of advice that have been well researched and proven to link lifestyle choices with the increased risk of breast cancer.
1.) Maintain a healthy body weight. Throughout your entire life, it is important to maintain healthy body weight. Medically speaking, doctors suggest that a person’s body mass index (BMI) should always be kept below 25. Weight gain during the middle years of your, has been shown to significantly increase breast cancer risk. Gaining more than 70 pounds as an adult doubles a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Additionally, and elevated BMI has been conclusively shown to increase the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.
2.) Minimize or completely avoid alcohol. Alcohol use is the most well established dietary risk factor for breast cancer. Research studies have consistently shown consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day can increase one’s risk for breast cancer by as much as 20-25 percent.
3.) Consume as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Eat seven or more servings daily or cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower); dark leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach); carrots, and tomatoes and do wonders for boosting the immune system. The superheroes against cancer include citruses, berries and cherries. Remember, eat your cruciferous vegetables raw if possible (or lightly cooked) in order to get the best nutritional effect.
4.) Exercise regularly…not just for short periods in your life when getting ready for the summer. It is important to find an exercise routine you enjoy and maintain it for the rest of your life. Many studies have shown that regular exercise provides powerful protection against breast cancer. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) five or more days a week. Consistency and duration, not intensity, are key!
5.) Do your fats right! The type of fat in your diet can affect your breast cancer risk. Minimize consumption of omega-6 fats (sunflower, safflower, corn and cottonseed oils), saturated fats and trans fats. Maximize your intake of omega-3 fats, especially from oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and herring). Consume monounsaturated oils (canola, olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados) as your primary fat source, as these foods have potential anti-cancer properties.
6.) Understand Carbs. Minimize consumption of the "Great White Hazards" - white flour, white rice, white potatoes, sugar and products containing them. These foods trigger hormonal changes that promote cellular growth in breast tissue. Replace these "wrong" carbs with whole grains and beans/legumes. Beans/legumes because of their high fiber and lignan content are especially protective.
7.) Consume whole food soy products. Regularly eating such foods as tofu, tempeh, edamame, roasted soy nuts, soy milk and miso have been shown to lower a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Additionally, try eating organic; genetically modified foods have been shown to increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
8.) Minimize exposure to pharmacologic estrogens and xeno-estrogens. Do not take prescription estrogens unless for a specific medical purpose. Lifetime exposure to estrogen plays a fundamental role in the development of breast cancer. Also avoid estrogen-like compounds found in environmental pollutants, such as pesticides and industrial chemicals. Buy organic produce if you can afford it; otherwise, thoroughly wash all non-organic produce. Minimize exposure to residual hormones found in non-organic dairy products, meat and poultry.
9.) Take daily general vitamin supplements.
10.)Maintain your mind AND body. Engage in self-nurturing behaviors regularly. Develop rich, warm and mutually beneficial relationships with family and friends. Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours per night). The mind-body associations with breast cancer are significant.