Staying healthy
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Staying healthy

As an additional safety measure, experts suggest focusing on lifestyle choices to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

It's never too late to start taking preventive measures. A vitamin-rich diet and regular exercise can help protect you from other cancers and strengthen your heart, which promotes overall good health and well-being. The key is incorporating these elements into your routine so they become a way of life -- not just occasional rituals.

Cut the fat

Keep your fat intake below 30 percent of your total daily calories. A new study suggests that three months after switching to a low-fat diet combined with a 10,000 mg fish oil supplement (omega-3 fatty acids), women actually change the type of fatty acids stored in their breast tissue -- which may decrease their risk. Also, scientists report that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet appears to decrease breast density, making mammograms more effective. So reach for high-fiber carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, low-fat granola and brown rice and nutrient-packed, high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They will keep you feeling full and full of energy.

Eat your veggies -- and fruits

They're loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E). Research confirms that these valuable nutrients protect the body against free radical damage, which can lead to tumor growth. They may also offer more cancer-fighting punch than taking supplements.

Reduce your alcohol intake

A recent study of 86,000 women showed that heavier drinking (defined as three or more small glasses a day) was associated with a 70 percent increased risk of dying from breast cancer. Another suggests that women in their thirties who consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day may have an 80 percent increased risk. Alcohol appears to significantly increase estrogen levels in the blood; the effect of alcohol was most pronounced among women with advanced breast cancer, suggesting that alcohol may make tumors grow faster.

Exercise regularly

In a study of more than 1,000 premenopausal women, those who exercised aerobically at least four hours a week reduced their breast-cancer risk by more than 50 percent.

Reduce stress

Emotions may affect the mechanisms and progression of cancer. A recent study found that women with cancer who expressed their emotions rather than suppressed them appeared to show greater resistance to the disease -- and these women tended to be under greater stress. This suggests that people who effectively control stress have better immune function, which helps prevent cancer.

Stay slim

New research shows that being as little as ten pounds overweight in your thirties is linked with a 23 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Your risk increases as you put on more weight. Stay in your ideal weight range.

Consider having children early

Postponing childbearing past age 30 is associated with an increased risk. Obviously this is a complex decision, but add this information to the list when making it. Studies on the possible benefits of breastfeeding are still inconclusive.

Don't smoke

One study indicates that some women may have a genetic susceptibility to the carcinogens in cigarettes; others suggest that smoking alters certain hormone levels, which may affect a woman's risk.