4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy

Simple things like regular exercise can protect your breasts.

Medically reviewed in October 2021

Updated on June 29, 2022

woman stretching outside
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Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, and one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

Although these statistics are alarming, making a few lifestyle changes can help keep your breasts in tip-top shape and lower your risk of breast cancer. 

woman drinking wine
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Stick to one drink at happy hour

Sipping even a few drinks per week is linked with a greater chance of developing breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Alcohol can not only damage DNA in cells, increasing your cancer risk, but regularly overdoing it bumps up your odds of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

“If you drink alcohol, it is recommended that you consume less than one drink per day,” says Sean Edmunds, MD, an OBGYN at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. At your next happy hour, instead of a second glass of wine, reach for soda water with lime. Remember, one drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

middle-aged woman strength training
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Squeeze in a 30-minute workout

Women who are overweight or obese—indicated by a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater—have a higher risk of breast cancer than those who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight can also increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer recurrence. Why the increased risk? Fat cells produce estrogen, which can contribute to the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers.

“The recommendation is at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week,” Dr. Edmunds says. “I recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week in addition to regular resistance training.” It goes without saying that maintaining a healthy weight begins with a healthy diet.

quit smoking
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Ditch the cigarettes

Smoking raises your risk for lung and mouth cancers, but studies suggest it may also increase your risk for breast cancer, especially if you started the habit before having your first child. Experts are looking into secondhand smoke and breast cancer risk.

salmon in baking dish
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Choose fish instead of steak

Women who eat more red meat (1.5 servings a day) have a 22 percent higher risk of breast cancer than those who only eat one serving a week, according to a study that followed 89,000 women over 20 years. The study, published in The BMJ in 2014, also found that replacing one serving of red meat per day with poultry reduces breast cancer risk by 17 percent. 

Instead of red meat opt for fish, lean protein, and nuts.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Breast Cancer. January 12, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. Drinking Alcohol. February 10, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. Being Overweight. February 10, 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022.
Farvid MS, Cho E, et al. Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study. The BMJ. 2014;348:g3437. 
American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention. 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022.
American Heart Association. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. November 1, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. 5 Ways to Boost Breast Health. July 7, 2020. Accessed June 29, 2022.

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