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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Lifestyle Changes Cut Breast Cancer Risk

Researchers Say Exercise and Diet May Prevent Some Cases of Breast Cancer

Lose Weight to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer continued...

The joint report recommends that women stay as lean as possible without being underweight to lower their breast cancer risk.

Other recommendations include:

  • Get moving: Women should engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, every day. According to the National Cancer Institute, women can reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by 25% if they remain physically active.
  • Limit alcohol: Women who drink alcohol should limit their consumption to no more than one drink a day.
  • Breastfeed: New mothers should breastfeed their infants exclusively for up to six months and then add other liquids and foods. There is convincing evidence that breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk.
  • Eat healthy foods: The report recommends avoiding junk foods, limiting red meat and salt, and making fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains the mainstays of a healthy diet.

Plant-Based Diet

Nutritionist Colleen Doyle, RD, of the American Cancer Society, tells WebMD that although no single food, food group, or nutrient has been shown to lower breast cancer risk, it is clear that eating a healthy, mostly plant-based diet is protective.

A red meat and processed meat-heavy diet is now known to increase the risk for colorectal cancer, and there is some suggestion that these foods increase breast cancer risk as well.

Doyle says the research attempting to target the role of single foods, food group, or nutrient in breast cancer has largely been a bust.

"Years ago, we recommended limiting all fats and that evolved into limiting saturated fats," she says. "Now we have moved away from specific food-based recommendations to focusing on an overall dietary pattern stressing a wide variety of mostly plant-based foods."

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) also recommends a mostly plant-based diet to lower cancer risk. To promote the idea, the group has developed what it calls the "new American plate" to replace the more traditional meal that has meat as its main component and refined starches as a mainstay.

AICR nutritionist Alice Bender, RD, tells WebMD that at least two-thirds of the "new" plate should be plant-based, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or beans; no more than one-third of any meal should come from animal protein.

"This is an easy way to visualize what a healthy diet should look like," she says. "It's really pretty simple."

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