Getting diagnosed with breast cancer is a terrifying thought. And while there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done before we can effectively cure it, we do know that certain healthy habits can help prevent it. In fact, there are a few things you can be doing every day that will decrease your risk of breast cancer — and they’re easier than you might think.
Adapting these easy everyday habits won’t guarantee you’ll stay cancer-free, but they’ll help lower your odds, and you’ll feel healthier and more energized, too.
The main things that keep breast cancer at bay
Your age has a lot to do with your breast cancer risk. | monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
While certain aspects of breast cancer remain a mystery, and the precise causes are unknown, we do know the main risk factors. A woman whose mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer is more likely to develop the disease, and being over 50 ups your risk as well.
And while none of those factors can be helped, there are things you can do to lower your risk. Adapt these healthy habits into your daily routine right away.
You should have quit this habit a long time ago. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images
If you smoke cigarettes, please quit as soon as you can. In addition to the numerous other health problems it can cause, several studies have linked smoking to an increased risk of breast cancer. This may not count as an “easy” habit, but once you’ve kicked it, you’ll feel so much better (and breathe easier).
Limit your alcohol
Keep the cocktails to a minimum. | iStock.com
While there’s nothing wrong with having a beer or glass of wine now and then, drinking alcohol does increase your breast cancer risk. Women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all, so try to limit yourself to just one or two weekly drinks.
Take a nice, brisk walk
Stick with vigorous exercise. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia
You’ve probably heard that regular exercise lowers your risk of developing cancer, and that’s true. But the duration can make a difference — a French study found that 4-7 hours per week of vigorous exercise decreases your breast cancer risk by a whopping 31% (which will cancel out that weekly drink risk). Workout regularly and push yourself to your limits.
Eat your beans
It’s important you get your serving of beans. | Piyaset/iStock/Getty Images
Swap one serving of meat per day for a serving of beans or legumes. Legumes are rich in risk-reducing nutrients, especially fiber. Plus, cutting back on meat is healthy.
Invest in some blackout shades
Getting some shut-eye in a dark room will enhance your quality of sleep. | Marjot/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Believe it or not, sleeping in a pitch black room can slash your odds of getting breast cancer by up to 50%. Being exposed to light at night suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, which also has immune-boosting effects. Low melatonin levels lead to DNA changes that can increase the production of breast cancer cells, according to a study by Abraham Haim, Ph.D.
Eat a colorful diet
A colorful diet is great for your health. | iStock/Getty Images
Taste the rainbow! Brightly colored fruits and veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, oranges, and berries are full of carotenoids, antioxidant compounds that protect your DNA from free radicals to keep breast cancer at bay, according to a study from Brigham and Young Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Avoid high-risk habits
A bad diet will definitely increase your risk. | Miguel Villagran/Getty Images
Just like there are things you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer, certain habits can also up your odds of a diagnosis. Eating a poor diet, using hormone therapy, staying on hormonal birth control for many years, and living a sedentary life definitely won’t help. Take care of your body as best you can.
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