A risk factor is anything that impacts the chance of you getting a disease.  There are both modifiable (lifestyle factors–weight, diet, exercise) and non-modifiable (gender, aging, genetics) risk factors that can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. While many of the non-modifiable risk factors are out of our control, there are certain preventative measures that women can take in early adulthood lower the modifiable risk factors that contribute to developing breast cancer later in life.

Weight Control

Research has proven that gaining weight in early adulthood can increase the risk of getting breast cancer later in life. One study discovered that women who gained about 20 pounds after age 18 increased their risk for getting breast cancer later in life by 15% compared to women who gained little to no weight at all.  Use the BMI calculator to determine if your body weight is ‘normal’. Bear in mind that the tool may overestimate body fat in athletes or those with a muscular build, as underestimate body fat in those who have lost muscle–but it is still a good estimate!

Women who went up just one skirt size over a ten year span between their 20’s and 60’s were shown to have a 33% increased chance of developing breast cancer. Women who went up two skirt sizes during that same span of time increased their chances by 77%.

Waist Size 

One study linked skirt size to breast cancer risk, even more-so than being overweight. Abdominal fat tissue can put women at a greater risk for developing breast cancer. Fat tissue promotes the development of estrogen, and estrogen feeds tumor growth. This study produced some alarming results: women who went up just one skirt size over a ten year span between their 20’s and 60’s were shown to have a 33% increased chance of developing breast cancer. Women who went up two skirt sizes during that same span of time increased their chances by 77%. Interval training is a great way to burn fat, especially in the waist area.  Here are a few interval workouts worth trying!

Exercise

There is growing evidence that exercise can decrease the risk of getting breast cancer. The Women’s Health Initiative study confirmed that even just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking reduced a women’s risk by 18%!

Drinking

The American Cancer Society confirms that there is a clear link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer development. The risk is directly correlated with the amount of alcohol that is consumed. Having 1 drink per day will slightly increase your risk, while 2-5 drinks per day can increase your risk by 1.5 and so on. This doesn’t mean eliminate drinking from your life altogether but rather consume in moderation.

Diet

Adopting a nutrient-rich diet offers significant health benefits and can prevent breast cancer as well as slow the disease process. Healthista recently published a list of 9 foods proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer:

  • Cruciferous Vegetables: cauliflower, garlic, onions, cabbage
  • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Beans and pulses
  • Tomatoes
  • Fruit and Vegetables
  • Omega 3 Rich Oily Fish
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed(s)
  • Soy Products

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