As you get older, you’re probably more and more concerned about what you need to do to preserve the health of your breasts, and avoid cancer. The good news is that while some risk factors for breast cancer, such as the age you started menstruating, can’t be changed, other lifestyle habits can help keep cancer risks under control, no matter when you start.
“Exercise lowers levels of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer,” says the ACS’s Debbie Saslow. The best way to do this is by getting 45 to 60 minutes of heart-thumping activity most days of the week. However, moderate levels of exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week can still make a difference. And remember that you’re never too old: A recent study in the British Medical Journal showed that postmenopausal women (along with those with a normal body mass index, or BMI) got more of a benefit from regular exercises than other women.
After menopause, obese women have double the risk of breast cancer compared with women of a healthy weight. This is of particular concern to Black women, who are more likely to be overweight.
“Gaining even 20 pounds of weight as an adult increases risk,” says Heather Spencer Feigelson, PhD, MPH, strategic director of genetic epidemiology at the ACS.
Stay Friends With Vitamin D
More and more studies demonstrate the cancer-fighting power of this vitamin. The latest piece of evidence, reported at the recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists: Breast cancer patients who were deficient in vitamin D were 94% more likely to have their cancer spread than women with adequate D levels.
“I advise women to take 800 to 1,000 IU a day,” says Andrew Kaunitz, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville.