Using Diet and Exercise to Prevent Breast Cancer


When it comes to breast cancer risk, some things are beyond a person’s control. Women might not be able to do much in regard to their genetic makeup and family history, each of which can elevate their risk for breast cancer, but many risk factors are within women’s control.

A healthy diet and routine exercise may help women reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, while poor lifestyle choices can increase that risk. For example, being overweight is a strong risk factor for breast cancer for women who are 18 and older, advises Stanford Health Care. Even 10 percent weight gain (or 15 pounds on a 150-pound woman) increases breast cancer risk as well as the risk of recurrence.
Diet and exercise can play a pivotal role in reducing breast cancer risk, and it’s important for women to understand just how much good healthy diets and routine exercise can do for them in regard to fighting breast cancer.

Stanford Health Care says some studies suggest limiting dietary fats in the diet, particularly those that come from animals, to reduce breast cancer risk. These include butter, full-fat dairy, poultry skin, and fatty meats. Reducing intake of dietary fats, especially animal fats, may protect against diseases sensitive to hormones, like breast cancer.

Data from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living study suggests that soy consumption from whole foods and soy milk for any breast cancer type is probably safe, despite public perceptions. Avoid soy supplements and concentrated soy that comes in many soy protein powders until more about their effects is known.

The American Cancer society links alcohol consumption to a higher risk of various cancers, including breast cancer. The more alcohol a person drinks, the higher his or her cancer risk. The ACS recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. A five-ounce glass of wine is considered one drink.

Susan G. Komen¨ says a high body mass index has been associated with increased risk for postmenopausal breast cancer. Exercise may help reduce risk by altering metabolism, hormones and breast density.

Inflammation is an immune system response to injury or illness. However, when inflammation is chronic, it can damage DNA and lead to cancer, advises the National Cancer Institute. Deep marine fish; dark, leafy green vegetables; bright, multi-colored vegetables; black teas; and spices like turmeric can help fight or prevent inflammation.

The ACS recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination), preferably spread throughout the week to keep body weight in check.

Stanford Health Care says consumption of high amounts of sugar can increase insulin levels and result in weight gain, each of which can lead to breast cancer. Limit intake of sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates, opting for healthy alternatives such as fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, dairy, and soy milk.

Diet and exercise is vital to overall health and can help women reduce their risk for breast cancer.