1. Eat dinner early
That means you’ll be able to fast for longer overnight, between dinner and breakfast. Doing that reduces your body’s blood glucose levels – and elevated blood glucose levels have been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Go food-free for between 12 and 14 hours each night.
2. Stick to a Mediterranean diet
As long as it contains plenty of good-quality olive oil, it can reduce your breast cancer risk by as much as 68 per cent. One explanation is that olive oil suppresses the activity of genes and proteins that play a role in cancer development.
As well as replacing butter with olive oil, a Mediterranean diet means eating plenty of plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes and nuts, eating fish and chicken at least twice a week, limiting red meat to a few times a month, and using herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavour.
3. Do 15 minutes of vigorous exercise daily
Try fast walking, jogging, swimming laps or aerobics. That lowers breast cancer risk by 20 per cent, particularly in postmenopausal women, when most breast cancers are diagnosed. The protective effect isn’t just because exercise helps to reduce weight – physical activity also regulates levels of hormones, regardless of weight.
4. Limit your alcohol intake
If you drink two glasses of wine a day, you’re 51 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer. Even drinking between three and six glasses of wine a week increases your risk by 15 per cent. Alcohol changes hormone levels, triggers the production of cancer-causing compounds and blocks one of the body’s ‘cancer protection’ pathways.
5. Keep your weight in check
Being overweight increases breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women by 42 per cent. Fat cells make oestrogen, which can trigger hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to develop and grow. Where you carry the extra weight matters too – stomach fat increases breast cancer risk more than extra fat carried on other areas of the body.
6. Don't mess with your hormones
If you’re on hormone replacement therapy, it makes you twice as likely to develop breast cancer while you’re taking it, thanks to the prolonged exposure to hormones. The longer you take it the greater the risk, and combined hormone therapy that contains both oestrogen and progestogen is more ‘risky’ than oestrogen-only therapy.
Cancer Australia says an increased breast cancer risk associated with combined HRT is more likely to occur after three years of use, but a ’safe’ timeframe hasn’t been established. If you are on HRT, talk to your doctor every six months to review risks.
7. Know your family's health history
But don’t rely on it too much. Only five to 10 per cent of breast cancers can be strongly linked to inherited factors, which means the vast majority of women who develop breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease.
8. Be aware of changes in your breasts
A new lump or mass is the most common symptom of breast cancer, but it’s not the only one. Also look for:
- a change in the size or shape of the breast;
- a change to the nipple, like crusting, redness or inversion;
- a nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing;
- an unusual pain that doesn’t go away,
- or a change in the skin of the breast, like redness or dimpling.