How to Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk at Any Age: A Decade-by-Decade Guide

5. If you have children, breast-feed them for at least six months.
Some studies suggest that breast-feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, particularly if a woman continues breast feeding for one and a half to two years. A recent study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center showed that breast feeding for six months or longer reduced the risk of low grade, slow-growing breast cancer by 20%, while the risk of triple-negative disease was cut by 50%.

6. Stay active.
Studies suggest that exercising three to four hours per week at moderate or vigorous levels can reduce your risk of breast cancer by about 20%. Whether it's brisk walking, biking, dancing, or jogging, work to keep your heart rate above its baseline level for at least 20 minutes at a time.

7. Eat a healthy diet.
While the relationship between diet and cancer is far from established, research suggests that a plant-based diet is associated with reduced risks for several cancers. The National Cancer Institute has for many years recommended that members of the general population eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but Dr. McTiernan points out that most experts on cancer and diet recommend at least double that amount. Focus especially on eating a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, as these contain the highest concentrations of vitamins.

Limit your intake of red meat to 4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) per day on average. Dr. McTiernan also recommends avoiding meats such as sausages and bologna. “The chemicals that are used to process the meats have been found to cause several kinds of cancers,” she notes. Strive also to minimize your intake of high-calorie foods such as sugary drinks, juice, desserts, and candies, as well as refined breads and chips.

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Lead writer: Anne Marie O’Connor
Last Updated: September 17, 2008

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