This year alone, an estimated 207, 000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, making the disease the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Daunting as these statistics may sound, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease:
Limit alcohol consumption. Findings from the Million Women Study, a British study that tracked more than 1,280,000 women in the UK for 7 years, showed that each daily alcoholic drink consumed raised the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 12 percent. For healthy breasts, experts recommend women drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day.
Avoid secondhand smoke. Even if you don't smoke, you're still not free from cigarettes' dangerous reach. A study conducted in 2005 by the California Environmental Protection Agency suggests that secondhand smoke and breast cancer are casually associated in younger, mainly premenopausal women.
Take brisk walks. Brisk walking for as little as two hours a week can reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent, according to findings from the landmark Women's Health Initiative study. Research suggests that more exercise has an even greater benefit. The National Cancer Institute recommends four hours or more of vigorous exercise a week to combat cancer risk. Exercise reduces the level of circulating hormones like estrogen; exposure to estrogen increases breast cancer risk.
Replace refined grains with whole grains. The American Cancer Society urges you to switch from refined grains like white bread and white rice to whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice. Whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Plus, whole grains are naturally low in fat and full of fiber, two factors that help prevent weight gain, which, in turn, lowers breast cancer risk.
Maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who maintain an average weight, according to the American Cancer Society. Being overweight causes higher blood levels of insulin, which is linked to breast cancer, while having an abundance of fat tissue at the time of menopause raises the level of estrogen being pumped throughout your body, which also increases the chance of breast cancer.