By Lauren Dimitrov, RDN, MPH, LDN
Everywhere you look this month you will see the color pink in representation of Breast Cancer Awareness month. There are certain risk factors associated with breast cancer that you cannot change, including age, genetics, race, ethnicity, and family history. However, recent studies have shown that other risk factors such as diet and exercise may help in the prevention of breast cancer.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), eating healthy may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are an important component of your diet because they contain vitamins and minerals that are essential in strengthening your immune system. Additionally, plant-based foods are full of phytonutrients that can protect your body from developing cancerous cells. If you’re not sure which foods to include in your diet, try incorporating these products into your favorite meals:
- Fruits: Berries and citrus
- Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, kale and carrots
- Whole grains: Oats, barley, and quinoa
- Legumes: Lentils and soybeans
Weight is another risk factor that is correlated with breast cancer. In post-menopausal women, excess fat tissue produces high levels of the hormone estrogen, which has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Engaging in some form of physical activity on a daily basis can help you maintain a healthy weight and balance hormone levels. It’s recommended that you incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity – such as walking – into your daily routine.
Alcohol consumption is also recognized as a breast cancer risk factor. Women who only consume one drink per day have a smaller risk versus heavy drinkers – or women who consume more than three alcoholic beverages per day – who have a 20% increased risk of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers.
Although there is no way to definitively prevent breast cancer, living a healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk, aid with recovery, and prevent recurrence of the disease. With the help of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), you can develop the best nutrition care plan for you or a loved one.