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Seven Ways to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

More than a quarter million women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. each year. While some risk factors for breast cancer are outside of your control -- including age, gender, race and genetics -- there are multiple modifiable risk factors. Here are seven steps you can take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

1) Maintain A Healthy Weight.

Obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer because estrogen is stored in fat, so the more body fat you have, the more cancer-fueling estrogen your body stores. In fact, postmenopausal women who are obese are up to 40% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who are considered a healthy weight. Premenopausal women who are obese are 20% more likely to develop breast cancer.

The good news is that even a little weight loss goes a long way. Losing just 4% of your body weight can decrease your estrogen levels by 17%!

2) Avoid Tobacco.

Women who smoke and women who are frequently exposed to second-hand smoke are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also, women who smoke are at a higher risk of complications if they do have to undergo treatment for breast cancer, including lung and heart problems, as well as an increased risk of blood clots.

3) Limit Your Alcohol Consumption.

Alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer because it causes an increase in estrogen levels, and it damages DNA, which can lead to the development of cancer cells. Women who drink 3 alcoholic beverages per week have a 15% higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink, and the risk increases up to 10% with each additional drink.

4) Get Plenty of Exercise.

In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise can lower your risk of breast cancer because it regulates your blood sugar and lowers your levels of insulin growth factor, which affects breast cells. It’s recommended that patients get at least 150 minutes of cardio per week to receive the maximum health benefits.

5) Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a hormone that boosts your immune system and prevents the growth of abnormal breast cells. Women who are deficient in Vitamin D have a higher incidence of breast cancer. To lower your risk, make sure you’re getting 15 minutes of sun exposure several times a week, and make sure you’re getting plenty of Vitamin D in your diet. Good sources of Vitamin D include fortified milk and juice, fatty fish, eggs and cheese.

6) Limit Your Exposure To Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is often prescribed to mitigate the effects of menopause, have a higher risk of breast cancer. In fact, women who take HRT that contains both estrogen and progesterone have a 75% increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women who take estrogen-only HRT have a higher risk of breast cancer if they take HRT for 10 years or more.

The good news is that two years after stopping HRT, your breast cancer risk returns to normal.

7) Avoid Light Exposure At Night.

Women who work the night shift, and women who live in areas of high light pollution, have an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers believe this is due to lower levels of melatonin, which not only regulates your sleep cycle but also lowers the level of estrogen circulating throughout your body.

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