8 things every woman needs to start doing right now to lower breast cancer risk

According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight US women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. This staggering stat could equal two members of your soccer team, three women in your yoga class, or five faces you see in a busy sushi joint. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to potentially lower your breast cancer risk.

1. Snack on walnuts. A recent Marshall University School of Medicine study showed that two handfuls of walnuts per day may help prevent breast cancer—and thwart tumor growth in those already with cancer—due to hearty doses of antioxidants, omega-3s, and phytosterols.

2. Feast on fungi. A recent study of more than 2,000 Chinese women revealed that after adjusting for known cancer risk factors like smoking and obesity, those who ate at least 10 grams of button mushrooms per day were 64 percent less likely to develop the disease. Researchers say ’shrooms may curb estrogen production while strengthening immune function.

3. Avoid alcohol. Just one or two drinks per day may elevate risk of breast tumors fueled by both estrogen and progesterone (the most common type), according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). As beer, booze, and wine consumption increases, so does breast cancer risk, so think before imbibing.

4. Dodge pesticides. Certain pesticides’ molecular structures mimic estrogen’s and glom onto your cells’ hormone receptors. Although a hard-and-fast link has yet to be established, the Mayo Clinic reports women with elevated pesticide levels in their breast tissue have greater cancer risk—all the more reason to buy organic and grow your own veggies.

5. Steep and sip. Women under age 50 who drank three cups of tea per day had 37 percent lower risk than those who sipped none, according to research published in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention. Tea’s flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) help stymie the free-radical damage that can lead to disease.

6. Limit radiation exposure. NCI warns that radiation therapy to the chest—especially during puberty—ups breast cancer risk, beginning 10 years after treatment and lasting (gulp) forever. According to a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Cancer, women given diagnostic chest X-rays for pneumonia had two times the normal risk for breast cancer; even those who’d received radiotherapy for acne or other skin conditions were more prone.

7. Trim the fat. Older women who ate 2 ounces of saturated fat–laden red meat a day for seven years had a 56 percent higher risk of breast cancer than those who ate none, says a 2007 University of Leeds study.

8. Chill out. Looks like stress can up breast cancer risk too. A 2008 Israeli study showed that women who’d weathered more than one stressful life event, such as losing a spouse, were at greater risk—and that general feelings of optimism and happiness may stave off breast cancer.

By Melaina Juntti

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