20 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States and approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. [1]

These are scary statistics, so in this article I’ve put together a list of 20 ways you can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.

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20 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer

A few simple diet and lifestyle changes can dramatically lower your chances of receiving a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.

1. Fill up on veggies

A healthy diet containing lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes and low in processed foods, trans-fats and animal products is the most important strategy for preventing breast cancer.

Brightly colored orange, red and green vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and spinach contain phytochemicals which can help to prevent cancer. 

Studies have shown that beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid which is found in red peppers, pumpkin, winter squash, paprika and red chilli has the ability to stimulate the expression of two anti-cancer genes. [2]

Vegetables from the cruciferous family including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain phytochemicals called indole-3 carbinol and glucosinolates, which can help to reduce breast cancer risk and detoxify excess hormones.

2. Garlic

Garlic contains phytochemicals that can reduce breast cancer risk.

When garlic is crushed or chopped, a powerful compound called allicin is released. Allicin is a potent cancer fighter.

If you don’t like the taste of garlic or if you’re worried about the odor, this garlic supplement is odor controlled and high in allicin.

Other allium vegetables such as onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots also have cancer preventative properties.

Garlic

3. Avoid potentially cancer causing foods

Processed foods often contain preservatives, artificial colors, flavors and MSG.

Avoid the following foods whenever you can:

  • Processed meats such as bacon, pepperoni, sausages
  • Burnt meat and meat cooked at high temperatures
  • Genetically modified (GMO) foods
  • Foods containing high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats

4. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, contain lignans and alpha linoleic acid which have been shown to suppress the growth, size and proliferation of cancer cells and also to promote breast cancer cell death. [3]

Ground flaxseed can be added to soups, smoothies and salads. It can also be used in place of breadcrumbs or to thicken sauces.

5. Green tea

Green tea contains the polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is a powerful antioxidant that can cause cancer cell death.

Matcha green tea is high in EGCG and contains more antioxidants than regular green tea.

6. Turmeric

Curcumin is a bright yellow compound extracted from turmeric that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cancer prevention and anti-tumor properties against some aggressive and recurrent cancers including breast cancer. [4]

Curcumin from turmeric isn’t absorbed well, but if you add a pinch of black pepper to your cooking, that will help with absorption.

Curcumin in supplement form is easily absorbed.

Turmeric

7. Iodine

Adequate iodine is required for the development of normal breast tissue.

In animal studies, iodine in supplement or seaweed form, has demonstrated beneficial effects in suppressing breast cancer cell and tumor growth.[5]

Iodine is found in kelp, nori, seafood and iodized salt.

8. Vitamin D

Women with a low level of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Vitamin D may play a role in controlling the normal growth of breast cells and may be able to stop breast cancer cell growth.

Experts recommend 10-30 minutes of sunlight exposure around the middle of the day to maintain an optimal vitamin D level.

People with dark skin, office workers and shift workers are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

If you’re looking for a good quality supplement, I like these Vitamin D capsules because they contain 5000IU of Vitamin D, which helps to top up your Vitamin D level quickly.

9. Eat dinner early

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found that eating dinner before 9pm or waiting at least two hours between eating dinner and going to bed was found to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 20 percent. [6]

10. Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.

After menopause the ovaries stop producing estrogen, but the fat tissue continues to produce estrogen, which raises estrogen levels.

Overweight women also tend to have higher levels of insulin which has been linked to breast cancer.

11. Exercise

Women who exercise regularly have a reduced risk of all cancers including breast cancer.

Exercise helps to keep insulin and blood sugar within the healthy range, keeps weight down, reduces stress hormones and improves sleep.

The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Women exercising

12. Smoking

Smoking causes a number of diseases including emphysema and lung cancer and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in women.

Research has also shown that there may be link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. [7]

13. Alcohol

Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, even in small amounts.

The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends women have no more than one alcoholic drink in a single day.

14. Birth control pill

The contraceptive pill is considered a Category 1 Known and Probable Carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

A 2014 study done by the American Association for Cancer Research found that breast cancer risk increased by 50% in those who used oral contraception.

Non-hormonal methods of birth control including condoms and fertility monitors are safer options.

15. Hormone replacement therapy

Menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be more likely to develop breast cancer.

HRT can help with night sweats, hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause but there are other natural options for dealing with these symptoms that don’t increase cancer risk.

Some common herbs for dealing with the symptoms of menopause naturally include Vitex, Dong Quai and Maca root.

See also 7 Herbs for Menopause and Hot Flashes

Herbs

16. Stress less and sleep more

Chronic stress and lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, lowered immunity, blood sugar dysregulation and increased estrogen production.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps to prepare the body for sleep.

Exposure to bright lights at night can suppress melatonin production leading to poorer quality sleep and an increased risk of breast cancer.

To increase natural melatonin production, turn off the TV and avoid using phones and other screens for an hour before bed or wear blue light blocking glasses at night.

Melatonin is available as a supplement that you can take at night to help with sleep.

17. Balance hormones

High estrogen is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Estrogen dominance is a common condition where estrogen is high and progesterone is low.

Symptoms of estrogen dominance include heavy or long periods (longer than 7 days), short menstrual cycles (shorter than 25 days) and severe PMS symptoms (mood swings, fatigue, irritability, anger and depression).

Regularly eating cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage or supplementing with DIM or broccoli sprout extract can help to remove excess estrogen from the body.

If you’d like to check your hormone levels without needing to see a doctor, you can order a test online from Walk-In Lab.

Then all you need to do is visit a local lab at a time that suits you and your results will be available online within one to two days.

Hormone #1 Baseline Blood Test Panel for Women includes Estradiol, Progesterone, Cortisol, Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Testosterone and DHEA,s.

See the hormone tests available here

18. Avoid xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are foreign estrogens that bind to receptor sites and mimic estrogen in the body.

Xenoestrogens are found in pesticides, commercially raised meat and dairy, artificial food ingredients and plastics.

It’s important to avoid heating food or drinks in plastic containers as the heat causes the chemicals to leach into the food or drink.

19. Choose natural cosmetics and personal care products

Numerous chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products can contribute to breast cancer.

One US survey found that the average American woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day, containing 168 different chemical ingredients.  

Certain chemicals like phthalates, parabens, PEG (polyethylene glycol) and fragrances found in deodorant, shampoo, nail polish, moisturiser and cosmetics interfere with estrogen levels in the body and increase the risk of breast cancer [8]

The skin is able to absorb any chemicals you put on it, so try to choose natural products wherever possible.

20. Optimize detoxification pathways

Excess estrogen is detoxified through the liver and removed from the body through the stool, so it’s important that your liver and bowels are working well.

Support your liver by eating plenty of dark green leafy veggies, like spinach, kale and arugula and consider taking a liver supporting supplement like this one.

It’s also important to ensure that you’re moving your bowels at least once each day.

Foods high in fiber like vegetables, fruit, seeds, oats and quinoa along with drinking plenty of water can help with bowel movements.

I hope these breast cancer prevention tips have been helpful.

Do you know of any other natural ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer? Let me know in the comments below.

Are you on Pinterest? I have boards dedicated to Women’s Health and Healthy Living that you may find helpful. You can also find me on Facebook.

how to reduce your breast cancer risk

How to reduce your risk of breast cancer naturally

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Kelly Martin

Hi, I'm Kelly Martin, a qualified Nutritionist and Herbal Medicine Practitioner. I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. I created this blog to share my knowledge and inspire women who are looking for natural health solutions. Read more

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Thanks for all the information. It’s comforting to know that we can play a role in prevention. It’s definitely an empowering feeling!

  2. Such an important article! I like that all the tips are very actionable. Made me realize that I need to pull up my socks and pay attention to my health.

  3. Interesting post – thank you for sharing. Particularly important for people who have family history of breast cancer

  4. Thanks for this – it was really useful. A few I knew about, like the contraceptive pill (which I was put on as a teenager with not a single discussion about risk factors from my GP. Hmm), but others, like the iodine and the sleep cycles/ shift work I didn’t know about at all.

  5. This is such a fantastic read for me, because my aunt died of breast cancer and *if* my mother is still alive, she’s dying from it now. So I’ve always had this massive worry of, I’m next. So these tips are a really big deal to me, and give me some encouragement on where I can make simple changes to my diet and take better care of myself. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate that.

  6. Very good post. Just this week on the news in the UK, they are saying that there could be a bigger risk of breast cancer while taking HRT than previously thought.

  7. Thanks for the information! All women should read this and strive to prevent breast cancer.

  8. Great and informative post! I always knew that eating well was a great way to prevent cancer but I like that you broke it all down. I wasn’t aware that flaxseed was so good! This is awesome because I make my own breads and load them up with flaxseed!

    1. Thanks Lindsay, yes flaxseed is great for cancer prevention.

  9. After my aunt got breast cancer I’m really scared! So I will keep these things in mind and sharing this ahead! 👍

  10. These are great tips and very useful. Living a vegan and organic lifestyle will do us all many good. Thank you for sharing

  11. Very informative post. It was worth the time reading through each and every word of this post. Breast cancer is also on the rise in India and my mother herself was diagnosed and operated on. Really very useful read.

  12. Very enlightening information about preventing breast cancer from lifestyle choices. I need to get out there and get more exercise!
    Have a great fall,
    Kippi

    1. Thanks Kippi, yes exercise is good for so many reasons.

  13. Very useful tips! So much information. I think if you maintain all of these tips it not only prevents cancer but also keeps you generally way more healthy.

  14. Wow! I had no idea about the birth control and cancer correlation! That is very interesting and not something I usually think about to ask my OBGYN. I think your diet list is super important….it’s easy to forget that food is the original medicine!

  15. This is an incredible list, very helpful! I’m still relatively young, but it’s already on my mind as something to be cognisant of. I do love many of the foods on this list, but I need to do better with sleep and exercise! I’m at the baby/toddler stage, and little ones don’t let me sleep!

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