Among the easiest things to control are what you eat and drink and how active you are. Here are some strategies that may help you decrease your risk of breast cancer:
• Limit alcohol. A link exists between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. How strong a link remains to be determined. The type of alcohol consumed — wine, beer or mixed drinks — seems to make no difference. To protect yourself from breast cancer, consider limiting alcohol to less than one drink a day or avoid alcohol completely.
• Maintain a healthy weight. There's a clear link between obesity — weighing more than is appropriate for your age and height — and breast cancer. This is especially true if you gain the weight later in life, particularly after menopause. Experts speculate that estrogen production in fatty tissue may be the link between obesity and breast cancer risk.
• Stay physically active. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and, as a consequence, may aid in breast cancer prevention. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven't been particularly active in the past, start your exercise program slowly and gradually work up to a greater intensity. Try to include weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging or aerobics. These have the added benefit of keeping your bones strong.
• Consider limiting fat in your diet. Results from the most definitive study of dietary fat and breast cancer risk to date suggest a slight decrease in risk of invasive breast cancer for women who eat a low-fat diet. But the effect is modest at best. However, by reducing the amount of fat in your diet, you may decrease your risk of other diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. And a low-fat diet may protect against breast cancer in another way if it helps you maintain a healthy weight — another factor in breast cancer risk. For a protective benefit, limit fat intake to less than 35 percent of your daily calories and restrict foods high in saturated fat.
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