You work out and eat well to keep fit. But science and researchers also report that your efforts affect your body positively on a cellular level, and can even lower your risk of breast cancer. Here are five of your favorite ways to stay healthy, and how those choices keep the girls thriving, too.
1. You love a sweat session.
Your workout regime is doing more for you than giving you those feel-good endorphins and firm buns. Research shows resistance training and cardio can lower your risk of cancer by as much as 25 percent. Not only does it lower body fat (which can be a link to breast cancer), but it also helps lower estrogen hormones. Women with lower estrogen levels have been shown to have a reduced risk of breast cancer compared to those with higher levels, according to Komen.org. What’s more, exercise may also help support your immune system, which fights to keep the growth of cancer at bay. So, the next time you need a little extra motivation to work out, know that the healthy impact you’re making on your body includes your breasts.
2. You limit saturated fats.
You know all too well how eating nutritious foods can affect your energy levels, belly bloat, and even digestion. But the healthy choices you make at mealtime, like eating healthy fats and limiting saturated fat, also keep your breasts healthy in the long term. The Women's Health Initiative Trial, a large study that started in 1991 that is still following its subjects in 2020, included a comparison of the food plans of 161,000 women and their risk for breast cancer, and suggests that low fat is the way to go. Breastcancer.org makes this recommendation for fats: “Try to limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of your total calories per day, and limit your fat intake to about 30 g per day. Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.” Of course, the occasional Shake Shack won’t turn the dial, but eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and fiber on the reg does more than support just your short-term goals.
3. You breastfed your baby, or are at least planning to.
Breastfeeding your little one is good for their immune system, and benefits your breast health. When you breastfeed, reports the CDC, your hormones shift, lowering your “lifetime exposure” to estrogen. If you've had trouble breastfeeding, or you don’t have children, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at a higher risk, but consider talking to your doc about your estrogen levels and what you can do to help reduce your lifetime exposure.
4. You get regular check-ups.
Getting regular physicals isn’t just about ensuring you get the flu shot or a pap smear—it’s also about your breast health. Since the first stages of breast cancer don’t often exude symptoms, such as pain in the breast area, and skin irritation or dimpling, screening is key for early cancer detection. In fact, screening can improve mortality rates by 47 percent, shows a Swedish study of 500,000 breast cancer patients. If you have risk factors that you can’t change, such as family history of breast cancer, or dense breast tissue, your regular check-ups are even more important. Regular annual and bi-annual screening for breast cancer, such as mammograms, MRI, and/or ultrasound, can start as early as 40, but women with high risk factors can request it as early as in their 20s.
5. You schedule rest days.
While your healthy habits are key in lowering your risk, keeping stress in check is key, too, as it’s considered an indirect link to breast cancer. While research doesn’t show that psychological stress is a risk factor, stress does have negative effects on the body. Things like fertility issues, as well as a weakened immune system, have been linked to cancer, since they directly affect hormones. Stress-reducing techniques, such as exercise, meditation, and rest days, can help. Not only do you deserve it, so do your breasts.