Breast Cancer Prevention

October is breast cancer awareness month and according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 die from the disease each year. Here are some important lifestyle factors individuals can work on to reduce the risk for breast cancer:

  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Obesity increases the risk for breast cancer. The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) suggests being lean as possible without being underweight by aiming to be at the lower end of the normal Body Mass Index (BMI) classification (18.5–24.9). Nutrition tips to help achieve this that also align with cancer prevention include reducing intake of added sugar beverages and foods, making the majority of your plate plant-based foods, and limiting high-fat meats. To improve eating habits and work towards smarter eating habits, consider taking the free New American Plate Challenge from the AICR by clicking here:
  • Being physically active. A 2013 meta-analysis including 31 studies concluded that physical activity is significantly associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and needs to be promoted as an important tool for prevention. Research has also shown regular exercise to have an even more significant effect for reducing the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women and those at a healthy body weight. At a minimum, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week.
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption. Research has shown as alcohol use increases, the risk of breast cancer does as well. Although some research has associated moderate alcohol consumption with some health benefits, the ACS and the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that women who currently consume alcohol, limit intake to one drink per day. This is defined as 12 oz. of regular beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor. If you do not currently consume alcohol, it is recommended to not start.

Michael Sandoz, MS, RD, LDN, CDE