10 simple ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Body Cosmetics

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And we’re about to see pink wherever we go.

But no sparkly pin, embellished wine glass, or pink sports jersey is going to make us more aware of the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. We’re already aware because we’ve all been effected by it, either directly or indirectly through a woman we know and love.

It’s time to focus on prevention.

It’s time to focus on the fact that there are a number of environmental factors and lifestyle choices that significantly increase our risk of developing breast cancer, and that these risk factors can be avoided.

10 simple ways to prevent breast cancer

1. Go anti-antiperspirants

Sweat is natural, ladies — own it! Aluminum, the active ingredient is most antiperspirant deodorants, mimics estrogen and can also cause direct damage to DNA. While no direct causal link between breast cancer and aluminum has been clinically demonstrated, breast tissue has been shown to concentrate aluminum, which is troubling given aluminum’s DNA-damaging abilities. Most interestingly, the aluminum is concentrated in the same area where the highest proportion of breast cancers are diagnosed. Hmm… Check out my DIY all-natural detoxifying deodorant which has  an ingredient that actually pulls metals and toxins from the skin, or see #2 for some resources to help you purchase a safer deodorant.

2. Detox your beauty and personal care routine

The US has one of the shortest lists of chemicals that have been banned for use in cosmetics – 11 compared to over 1,000 banned by the European Union! Worse yet, the industry’s review council has reviewed only 20% of the ingredients used in personal care products (some “review council,” huh?). Some of these chemicals – including parabens, triclosan, and ethylene oxide, just to name a few – have been linked to hormone disruption and/or irregular breast development, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. Luckily, a number of organizations have stepped in to help protect consumers. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to help you learn about the ingredients in your beauty products and find safer options. If you’re an iPhone user, check out the awesome new app Think Dirty (every time you use it during the month of October, they will donate a dollar to the Breast Cancer Fund – how cool is that!?).

3. End your toxic relationship with plastic

This terrible product is just everywhere nowadays! Plasticizers including BPA have been linked to a slew of ailments including hormone-disruption which may increase the risk of breast cancer. Guess what? BPA-free plastic is not necessarily any safer than plastic with BPA! In fact, BPA-free is a load of B(P)S! Literally. Many manufacturers have replaced BPA with its chemical-cousin, BPS, which has the same nasty record. See 10 ways to end your relationship with plastic for ideas and tips.

4. Lose those extra pounds once and for all

A number of studies have concluded and the Surgeon General warns that gaining more than 20 pounds between age 18 and midlife can double the risk of developing post-menopausal breast cancer (wowza). Anne McTiernan, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has even stated that a quarter of all breast cancer cases could be prevented by women achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. This is because estrogen is stored in fat, and elevated estrogen levels increases the risk of breast cancer.

5. Get moving

Even if it’s just a stroll: a recent study found that moderate physical activity (walking for an hour a day) reduced breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women by 14%, while vigorous physical activity (running, etc. in addition to walking for an hour) reduced breast cancer risk by 25%. Another recent study found that moderate exercise in pre-menopausal women can benefit the way in which their bodies handle environmental estrogen.

6. Load up on antioxidants

Antioxidants benefit our bodies in so many wonderful ways, the greatest of which is their ability to negate the effects of free-radicals, nasty little buggers that damage cells, opening the door for cancer. Antioxidant-rich foods include berries, apples, pomegranates, beans (small red, kidney, pinto), artichokes, prunes, and cacao. Check out this recipe for anti-aging chocolate, named for the high antioxidant content of its yummy ingredients!

7. Quit smoking

Researchers have found that the rate of new breast cancer diagnosis was 24% higher in smokers than in nonsmokers, and 13% higher in former smokers than in nonsmokers. Enough said. While quitting smoking may not be a “simple” thing to do for many, it is a “simple” way to reduce the risk of breast cancer. If any smokers are reading this, I hope these statistics are the last push you need to finally quit.

8. Limit alcohol intake

Studies have shown that drinking 2+ alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of breast cancer by at least 20%. The American Cancer Society recommends that women consume only alcoholic drink or less a day. Alcohol may affect the estrogen levels in the body, which may account for this increased risk.

9. Limit your soy intake

Natural plant-based estrogens in soy may provide healthy benefits in low doses, but may be a risk factor for breast cancer in higher doses. This is an issue since soy is ubiquitous in our modern, highly processed food system. The high prevalence of soy is really just another great reason to cut back on processed foods as much as possible. I play by the precautionary principle and so really flat-out avoid soy (to read more, see Why soy is NOT a health food).

10. Prioritize purchasing hormone-free, pasture-raised meat and dairy

Modern-day large-scale meat and dairy products unfortunately includes the use of growth hormones. These hormones end up in the meat and dairy products conveniently found at a grocery store near you, and eventually make their way into the consumer. This is a major problem since these hormones can mess with our own hormones, which spells Trouble (note the capital “T”). Choose hormone-free, preferably pasture-raised meat and dairy to avoid this risk.

Sources and further reading:


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  1. Well you can have the most *impressive* resume and credentials, but if you’re selectively omitting data because it doesn’t favor your thesis (and in fact, may disprove it), all credibility goes out the window. “He is the Jacob Gould…” BLAH BLAH BLAH. Plus, it’s the Age of Information – you don’t need stuffy titles from an Ivy League school to be well-educated or well-respected in your field.

    As for your other link – of course I will. Pasteurization became necessary as a result of factory farming (dirty, deplorable conditions in which to raise animals). And because still today most milk comes from CAFOs, it MUST be pasteurized. It could never be sold raw, the risk of contamination would be too great. But this is not the case for small-scale farmers who produce raw milk. Most of them take great pride in their animal husbandry practices – their animals are allowed to pasture and are grass-fed, not pumped full of antibiotics, fed grains they are not designed to digest, or crammed in small spaces with feces up to their knees. While there may be occasional contamination incidents (Murphy’s Law), they are certainly much more rare than FDA recalls on the “safe” foods that are “legal” to consume (if you want some laughs: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/).

    And Forks Over Knives – LOL! They’re still regurgitating that whole “saturated fat is unhealthy” BS? Groupthink is so sad…

  2. Quote from the Chris Kresser link: “Chris’s work is informed by his own experience…”

    Excuse me, who has more scientific credibility someone who’s been mostly self-educated and a promoter of a Paleo diet, or T. Colin Campbell, an American biochemist who specializes in the effect of nutrition on long-term health. He is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.

    How about the link provided http://www.NutritionFacts.org. Do you want to debunk that one too? See the difference? Scientific facts vs personal experience.

  3. @Nadia, I’m glad suggestion #10 works for you. Nonetheless, it comes with undesirable effects to your health. After reading “The China Study” THERE IS NOT MUCH DEBATE about how dairy, organic or not, IS CANCER PRODUCER!
    This book is based on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a 20-year study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University and the University of Oxford. T. Colin Campbell being one of the study’s directors.

    Here’s more scientific proof:http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/raw-milk-versus-pasteurized-milk/

    To your health.

  4. This is heavily debated. Many individuals (like myself) greatly benefit from the fat-soluble vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics found in raw, grass-fed dairy.

  5. Love your article Nadia! I follow you on Facebook as well. I am currently doing all 10 things on your list. It took some time to nail all of them down but once I completed the task it feels real good and I feel real good! I am 28 pounds lighter and try to stay as chemical free as possible. It is not impossible. You just need to stay the course!

  6. I just came back from #ShifCon and I’m glad to see you have the Breast Cancer Fund as a resource.
    They do such great work and have been talking about this issue for so long. PREVENTION is the key, not spending millions of dollars selling pink things made by the very companies who create the chemicals that contribute to the problem. #pinkwashing. October is the month of #pinkwashing.

    Follow the hashtag #ReThinkPink on twitter for some great stuff going on this month from @BreastCancerFnd on twitter too.

  7. That may not be so “simple” for some. But yes, for those who are able to breastfeed, it does reduce the risk significantly!

  8. Haha oh goodness. Yeah, not the best time to have a typo 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out for me!

  9. Keep posting, I love reading your articles!

    ..but at the end of your second paragraph you wrote they will donate a dollar to the ‘BEAST Cancer’ fund..I hope not!

  10. Nadia,

    I just found your blog and already love all of the DYI ideas- Shared!

    It is always good to read and be reminded about prevention. I feel the same way and refuse to donate to big greedy “Non for profit” rip offs. Thanks for raising awareness and being part of all of the movement trying to change the world one healthy lifestyle change at a time.

  11. Hello Nadia!

    Great article- so glad I found it via FB as I am writing an article of my own on Pinkwashing so this a fantastic list to help me help others 🙂