Prevention

“How do I prevent breast cancer?”

It’s one of the most common questions we get asked and one we encourage you to keep asking, but with few known causes and several evolving risk factors, the answer is not as precise as we wish it were.

To best answer your question, we say be proactive in knowing, understanding and reducing your breast cancer risk factors wherever possible. You may not have the power to change your history or DNA, but how you live – what you put in and on your body, what you expose yourself to, your level of physical activity and breast awareness – is up to you.

Reduce your risk

Move it! Compared to no physical activity, exercising five hours a week can substantially reduce your risk. Bike, run, dance, walk your dog, jump on the bed with your kids…it’s all good.

Toss the fries! Opt for a low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies. Also, try to limit red meat and animal fats… choose olive oil instead.

Butt out! Smoking kills people! Get help quitting.

Stay fit! Maintain a healthy body weight. We know this means something different to everyone, but keep in mind that extra fat cells make extra estrogen.

Go for a virgin! Limit your alcohol intake (no more than four drinks a week, if that) and help your liver keep blood estrogen levels low.

Try a condom! Taking birth control pills for five years or longer can slightly increase your risk. It might be time to consider other options.

Make a baby! If you’re planning on having babies, try to start early (before your 35th birthday) and breastfeed (if possible). Interrupting consistent estrogen exposure through pregnancy and breastfeeding is a good thing.

Do your HRT homework! Before taking Hormone Replacement Therapy, consider all sides. Recent use of combination HRT has been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer. Long-term use puts you at greater risk.

Get your Vitamin D! Studies have shown Vitamin D helps regulate normal breast cell growth. Plus, there’s a possible link between a low Vitamin D level and a higher risk of breast cancer. The best sources are sun exposure, vitamin D3 supplements and oily fish.

Get outside! Carpets, furniture and building materials can all release unhealthy chemicals so open your windows or–better yet–get outside and enjoy fresh air and natural Vitamin D (see above!).

Go organic! Synthetic chemicals and many pesticides used in food production, processing and packaging end up in food. Choose organic when you can (especially for the “dirty dozen”). If organic is out of your budget, put the “Clean 15″ on your shopping list. Also, wash and peel your fruits and veggies to reduce pesticides.

Buy fresh food! Limit use of canned foods and plastics and get your food from the farm, not the factory. Processed foods are usually full of fat, sugar, salt, fillers and preservatives and fake ingredients. Also, chemicals in the packaging can leach out of the container into your food. Only use plastics with recycling code #1, 2, 4 and 5. Avoid containers with recycling codes #3, 6 and 7.

Cook and store food safely! Avoid using non-stick pans at high heat and never cook or heat food in plastic because harmful chemicals can be released into your food. Use stainless steel, glass, ceramic and cast iron pots, pans and storage containers.

Get pretty safely! It’s best to buy cosmetics and personal care products that are made without fragrances, hormones and preservatives. Click here to check out Environmental Defence Canada’s “Toxic Ten” to beware of when shopping.

Go “Green” around the house! Use green or organic cleaners and household supplies that are safer for you and better for the environment. Check out www.toxicnation.ca/guides for tips on reducing toxins in your body and home.

Know your family history! Get info about any type of cancer in your blood relatives (mom’s and dad’s side) as well as the age of diagnosis. Share all this info with your doctor and be sure to update them of any new cancer diagnosis within the family.

Know your own history too! Let your doctor know if you received radiation therapy for acne or Hodgkin’s disease as a girl or young woman or if you had a prior breast biopsy, even if the results were non-cancerous.

Be happy! There’s no proven link between stress and breast cancer but reducing it can improve your quality of life. Keep a positive attitude, learn to relax and maintain your emotional health.

Rethink's Mission

To continuously pioneer cutting-edge breast cancer education, support and research that speak fearlessly to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women.

Quick fact

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada among women under 50.

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