Even if you have a close relative with breast cancer you’ll want to know about the results of a new study. It appears you can reduce breast cancer risk by sticking to three simple habits – being physically active, keeping your weight under control and drinking in moderation, if at all – are keys to protecting yourself.
Even if you have a family history, these three behaviors were found to lower your risk, compared to women who don’t do these things.
The team wanted to examine the effects of lifestyle habits on breast cancer risks in an effort to show those with a strong family history of the disease that there were things they could do to impact their own risk.
The team analyzed data on women aged 50-79 from the Women’s Health Initiative study that began in 1993. During 5.4 years of follow up, just under 2000 of those women were diagnosed with invasive cancer of the breast. Women were excluded from the study who had a personal history of breast cancer, or who had a family history of early onset cancer (before age 45) so the team could look at the impact of lifestyle factors on cancer risk.
Following all three healthy habits brought down risk of cancer of the breast for women with, and without, a late onset family history. If you had a family history yet did all three of the healthy habits, six out of every 1,000 women would get breast cancer in a year. In contrast, about 7 of every 1,000 women developed breast cancer each year if they had a late onset family history but did none of the three healthy behaviors.
If a woman didn’t have a family history, and still followed all three healthy habits, about 3.5 of every 1,000 were diagnosed with breast cancer each year, compared to almost 4.6 per 1,000 per year for those who didn’t have the history and followed none of the good-for-you behaviors.
For the study, regular physical activity was 20 minutes of heart rate raising exercise at least five times each week. Moderate alcohol intake was considered less than one drink each day. Body weight was measured according to body mass index (BMI), with anything from 18.5 to under 25 being considered a healthy weight.
The good news for anyone with a strong family history of this devastating disease is that you can do something to reduce your own risk. You don’t have to follow in family members’ footsteps… this research shows it’s up to you, and what you do for your body.
It seems any woman can reduce breast cancer risk by keeping herself at a healthy weight, being active (45 to 60 minutes of intentional activity per day) on a regular basis, and keeping your intake of alcohol in check.