2 March, 2023

Health habits are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. But did you know they can also help you reduce your risk of breast cancer? 

Everyone is born with a degree of susceptibility to breast cancer. Women are more susceptible than men. But the choices you make in your daily life can influence your level of risk. 

From the things you eat to the chemicals you are exposed to, all of these can help determine whether you’re at higher or lower risk of the disease. The good news is that you have a certain amount of control over some of these factors. So, it is good to start by understanding ways you are at an increased risk and look at what changes you can make to your lifestyle and behaviourally.  

We have put some healthy habits together that can help you make choices to improve your health.  

Take the stairs more! 

If you have stairs at your office, take them instead of getting the lift at every opportunity. For an even better workout, walk up and down the stairs repeatedly. Start with a limited number of repetitions and then increase them as you go.  

Physical activity doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym or running a marathon. If you can’t do structured exercise, try to build physical activity into your daily life. Simple lifestyle changes can make a difference.  

By being physically active, you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by around 20%. Physical activity also reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality following a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Download the Yuka app 

Some chemicals that affect the system that manages hormones in your body are known as the endocrine system. For this reason, they are called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). And due to their ability to disrupt our hormones, exposure to them may increase breast cancer risk. 

EDCs and other harmful chemicals are found in many personal care items, such as parabens in cosmetics, UV filters in suncreams, aluminium salts and synthetic musks in antiperspirants and the antimicrobial agent triclosan found in toothpaste, soap and other hygiene products.

Yuka analyses hygiene and cosmetic products to tell you what chemicals they contain, highlighting any chemicals of concern. You get a detailed data sheet for each product you scan to help you understand its score. The app even displays the products with an easy-to-understand colour code, which lets you view the product’s impact on your health. 

When you scan a product with a bad score, Yuka offers independent recommendations for comparable items that are better for your health! Top tip: Go into shops and scan various products to get the best personal alternative possible. 

Drink an extra glass of water each day 

Water is vital for us humans. It’s estimated up to 60% of an adult’s total body weight is water (1), drinking water is important in keeping your body working well and staying hydrated! Avoiding sugary, fizzy drinks such as coke and lemonade can help maintain a healthy weight, which is key to reducing the risk of breast cancer – especially for post-menopausal women. 

Take a 10-minute walk 

We know it’s cold, but taking a quick lunchtime stroll around the block can help you sneak in some extra steps while also topping up your vitamin D levels in the winter sunshine. Two benefits in one to help reduce your risk.  

Firstly, physical activity has been shown to lower your risk of breast cancer – the more you do, the more it can help. Similarly, during winter, our vitamin D levels can drop because of the often-limited time spent outdoors. Studies suggest a protective relationship between healthy vitamin D levels and breast cancer. 

Sleep more, eat less 

Do you sleep a solid seven or eight hours most nights? Many of us don’t. Solid sleep doesn’t just give you more energy; it can also help with sticking to your healthy eating goals.  

A 2022 study showed that better-rested adults consume significantly fewer calories than chronically sleep-deprived adults. Sleep duration has been linked to the body’s production of appetite-regulating hormones.(2) Insufficient sleep is associated with higher levels of appetite-increasing hormones and lower levels of hormones providing the sensation of feeling full, which can set you up to gain weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is key to reducing your risk of breast cancer – for postmenopausal women and men. 

To get some extra kip, head to bed 30 minutes earlier than your usual time. Turn off your phone and wind down with a book.  

Start your day with a healthy breakfast 

Many studies find a diet high in fibre is linked to a decreased breast cancer risk.  

Eat something high in fibre for breakfast to keep you full and energised. Ideas for a healthy breakfast high in fibre are porridge with your favourite fruit or a slice of wholemeal bread with avocado and tomatoes on top. Starting your day with a nutritious and healthy breakfast can help prevent mid-morning cravings or tendencies to overeat at lunchtime. Tired of the same bowl of porridge? Add different toppings to make it more exciting such as different fruit, a small handful of nuts, a teaspoon of honey or a bit of peanut butter. The options are endless! 

Include fruit or vegetables in almost every meal 

Even a small handful of fruit and vegetables can add to your five-a-day. The World Health Organisation recommends eating at least three portions of non-starchy vegetables and two portions of fruit (400 g in total) daily. Fruits and vegetables provide a mixture of health-promoting ingredients such as fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. 

Many studies indicate that a diet high in fruit and vegetables protects against breast cancer. For example, there appears to be a correlation between eating high quantities of non-starchy vegetables and a decreased risk of oestrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer; and between consuming lots of foods high in carotenoids and a decreased risk of breast cancer. (3) 

Breast Cancer UK’s free recipe e-book is out now! Download ‘Organic Flavours’ today. What are you waiting for? Get cooking (it even has a list of non-starchy and carotenoids fruit and veg to help you on your journey to top health!). 

Snack in moderation 

Any healthy diet should also include a varied selection of foods that are as natural as possible and provide the right amount of energy and nutrients. Making and maintaining good food choices can help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. 

When it comes to snacking, it’s the quantity that counts. Moderate snacking is not a problem in an otherwise healthy and balanced diet. Moreover, not all sweets are the same. The fat content and the sugar content are particularly important. For example, ice cream made of cream (milk) is higher in calories than ice lollies made from fruit. Nature offers us many sweet and healthy alternatives. e.g., whole fruits, dried fruit and unsalted nuts, all contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. 

We hope you find these tips helpful. Adopting these small changes will help you stick to those healthy habits. Try simple swaps to reduce your risk of breast cancer today. Please browse through our website for more information, or keep an eye out on our social media for top tips on how you can reduce your risk of breast cancer.  

Start your breast cancer prevention journey today.  

Help fund our research – you can help prevent breast cancer for future generations. Donate today 

1 EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies. 2010. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal. 8(3): 1459. https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1459

2 Tasali E et al. 2022. Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults With Overweight in Real-life Settings: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2022;182(4):365–374. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2788694  

3 Farvid, M. S., Spence, N. D., Holmes, M. D., & Barnett, J. B. (2020). Fiber consumption and breast cancer incidence: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Cancer, 126(13), 3061–3075. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.32816 

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