Nine habits that can help lower your breast- can­cer risk.

Martha Stewart Living - - Contents - TEXT BY SARAH EN­GLER

We’ve come a long way in the bat­tle against breast can­cer, but the truth is, one in eight women to­day still gets the dis­ease. There’s a lot we can do to pre­vent a di­ag­no­sis, though, as nearly all can­cer cases (90 per­cent or more) are linked to life­style, not ge­net­ics. To lower your risk—and im­prove your over­all health—fol­low this ad­vice from the trail­blaz­ing doc­tors and sci­en­tists who are study­ing diet, hor­mones, and more to help you beat the odds.

WOMEN HAVE SU­PER­POW­ERS, like track­ing down miss­ing items in sec­onds and re­mem­ber­ing ev­ery­one’s birth­day and sushi or­der. But un­for­tu­nately, we can’t know or do ev­ery­thing—and that makes the ill­nesses that af­fect us most acutely, like breast can­cer, frust rat­ing. How­ever, there’s plenty you can do to rein in your risk, whether it’s from ge­netic causes, which ac­count for only 5 to 10 per­cent of all can­cers, or from the con­trol­lable, day-to-day ones be­hind most di­ag­noses.

1. Fa­mil­iar­ize Your­self

Your first move is to get to know your breasts—how they look and feel. Even though fed­eral guide­lines now rec­om­mend against clin­i­cians teach­ing women to do breast self-ex­ams, El­iz­a­beth Mor­ris, M.D., chief of breast imag­ing at Me­mo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter, in New York City, sug­gests check­ing them monthly for any new lumps or skin changes to find ab­nor­mal­i­ties that are not de­tected on mam­mog­ra­phy.

2. Make a Plan

De­vel­op­ing a per­son­al­ized screen­ing regimen with your doc­tor based on fam­ily his­tory is also es­sen­tial. Ide­ally, Mor­ris says, you’d have this con­ver­sa­tion at around age 30, but it’s never too late. A typ­i­cal time line calls for your first mam­mo­gram at 40. That’s esp ecially im­por­tant for African-Amer­i­can and His­panic women, who tend to de­velop breast can­cer ear­lier in life. Re­search con­ducted by Elisa Port, M.D., chief of breast surgery and di­rec­tor of the Du­bin Breast Cen­ter at Mount Si­nai Hos­pi­tal, in New York City, shows that women who get an­nual mam­mo­grams start­ing at 40 and de­velop breast can­cer are less likely than those who don’t get them to need chemo, have all their lymph nodes un­der the arms (where the can­cer spreads first) re­moved, or re­quire a mas­tec­tomy. “Not only do mam­mo­grams save lives, but they give doc­tors the abil­ity to save more lives while do­ing less [in­va­sive treat­ments],” Port says. “Women have way more op­tions when they screen.”

3. Eat Your Cru­cif­er­ous Veg­eta­bles Load up on the crunchy kind, like cauliflower, kale, and broc­coli, says San Diego–based for­mer sur­geon turned nat­u­ral-health ex­pert Chris­tine Horner, who spear­headed a cam­paign in the 1990s that led to the pass­ing of a fed­eral law re­quir­ing in­sur­ers to cover post mas­tec­tomy breast re­con­struc­tion. They con­tain com­pounds called in­doles and isoth­io­cyanates that may help stop breast can­cer from de­vel­op­ing. Even bet­ter, make them part of a Mediter­ranean diet, which calls for about six serv­ings of veg­eta­bles and fruit daily, with up to six half-cups of whole grains or legumes and some fish. A 20-year study pub­lished last year in In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Can­cer re­vealed that women who ate this way were 40 per­cent less likely to de­velop breast can­cers known as hor­mone-re­cep­tor-neg­a­tive, which tend to be more ag­gres­sive.

4. Sip Wisely Be mind­ful of your over­all booze in­take. “Al­co­hol use is as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk of breast can­cer,” says Anne McTier­nan, M.D., a re­searcher and epi­demi­ol­o­gist at the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter, in Seat­tle, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the long-term ef­fect s of diet, weight loss, and ex­er­cise on breast-can­cer biomark­ers in part­ner­ship with the Breast Can­cer Re­search Foun­da­tion. “Women should limit their in­take to no more than one drink per day, re­gard­less of the kind.” A weekly max­i­mum of five is even more op­ti­mal.

5. Make Time for an Out­door Walk The ben­e­fits are twofold. A st udy of nearly 60,000 post­menopausal women pub­lished in Can­cer Epi­demi­ol­ogy, Biomark­ers & Preven­tion in 2014 found that those who con­sis­tently walked about 35 min­utes a day were 10 per­cent less likely to de­velop can­cer. And a 2017 st udy out of the Univer­sity of Al­berta, in Ed­mon­ton, saw early signs that the same blue­light wave­lengths that reg­u­late your cir­ca­dian rhythm may stop sub­cu­ta­neous fat cells from stor­ing too much of the stuff. Most women add this form of fat as they gain weight, says McTier­nan, and be­ing over­weight or obese raises the chances of breast can­cer post menopause. To keep your BMI healthy (un­der 25) and breast-can­cer risk in check, get reg­u­lar mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise, like two and a half hours a week of brisk walk­ing, swim­ming, or bik­ing—and if you can, log some of it out­side.

6. Get Smart About Hor­mones “If you take them to man­age menopausal symp­toms, avoid ones that con­tain pro­ges­terone, and limit their use to less than three years,” says McTier­nan. Syn­thetic pro­ges­terone, or pro­gest in, is tied to higher breast-can­cer risk. (Plant es­tro­gens, like the isoflavones in soy, are not; one to two serv­ings a day of soy milk or tofu are safe, per the Mayo Clinic.) She also warns against over­the-counter hor­monal gels and creams— they’re no bet­ter than pre­scrip­tion ones.

7. Take 10-Minute Stress Breaks “Stress plays a ma­jor role in at least 90 per­cent of chronic ill­nesses, in­clud­ing breast can­cer,” Horner says. Stress hor­mones can weaken your im­mune sys­tem, and there­fore your body’s abil­ity to kill dis­eased cells and pre­vent them from multiplying. Chronic st ress can also in­crease your blood sup­ply, which can sp eed the devel­op­ment of tu­mors. Whether it’s a few yoga poses or a quick guided med­i­ta­tion, “do some sort of st ress-re­duc­ing tech­nique on a daily ba­sis,” she ad­vises. “Even 10 min­utes can make a dif­fer­ence.”

8. Banish House­hold Dust There’s more in it than lint and pollen. It can also con­tain chem­i­cals from items such as TVs, fur­ni­ture, floor­ing, and toys that, per a 2016 st udy pub­lished in En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy, de­grade and col­lect in the air. “Many of them mimic es­tro­gen and sig­nif­i­cantly raise your breast-can­cer risk,” Horner says. To re­duce ex­po­sure, dust of­ten with a damp mi­crofiber cloth, use a HEPA fil­ter–equipped vac­uum, and main­tain a shoes-off pol­icy. And watch what you bring home: For guid­ance, use the Silent Spring In­sti­tute’s Detox Me app.

9. Go to Bed Ear­lier “Your sleep qual­ity is as im­por­tant as the food you eat,” says Horner. To get the deep­est rest, be in bed by 10 and up by six. “When you stay up late, many hor­mones— est ro­gen; in­sulin; cor­ti­sol, which is linked to st ress; and mela­tonin, a po­tent an­tiox­i­dant—be­come im­bal­anced, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of many ill­nesses, in­clud­ing breast can­cer.” Keep your bed­room dark (light, in­clud­ing from de­vices, in­hibits mela­tonin), cool (around 65 de­grees), and dis­trac­tion-free.

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