50 Everyday Habits That Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Talk to your doctor about your birth control options

Birth control pill / contraceptive / safe sexsuriyachan/Shutterstock

Oral contraceptives can help prevent unwanted pregnancies, but they may also cause a “small but significant increase in the risk of breast cancer,” according to a large study. For every 100,000 women using hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer annually, compared with 55 cases a year among nonusers, the study showed. Talk to your doctor about the best birth control method for you.

Eat like a Greek

chickpeas hummus with olive oil and smoked paprika, selective focusAnna Shepulova/Shutterstock

You’ve likely heard about your gut microbiome, and how a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is the key to optimal health. New research suggests your breasts have a microbiome too that is also altered by diet. “Being able to shift the breast microbiome through diet may offer a new approach to preventing breast cancer or at least reducing the risk,” says the study’s lead author, Katherine Cook, PhD, assistant professor of surgery, hypertension, and cancer biology at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, in a news release. In the study, female monkeys were fed a diet that mimicked either a high-fat Western diet or a plant-based Mediterranean diet for two-and-a-half years, and the group that ate the Mediterranean diet had a different set of bacteria in their breast tissue than those that ate the Western diet. Specifically, consuming the Mediterranean diet led to about a 10-fold increase of mammary gland lactobacillus, a bacteria that seems to decrease breast cancer tumor growth. These are foods that cancer doctors never eat.

Watch your waistline

Close-up Of A Woman's Reflection In Mirror Measuring Her BellyAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Being overweight or obese—especially after menopause—raises your odds of developing breast cancer, and one of the best breast cancer prevention tips is to maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity, making necessary dietary changes, and practicing portion control are all part of a successful weight loss/management strategy. “Try to stay within five to ten pounds of what you weighed at age 18,” says Dr. McTiernan. “The best way to avoid weight gain and avoid overweight or obesity is to eat a diet featuring vegetables and fresh fruit and few high-calorie foods like sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fatty foods.”