Knowing how to reduce breast cancer risk is crucial as we age and it's a worry that many women — especially those with a family history of breast cancer — share. Yet here's some welcome news: Our risk of breast cancer has been steadily dropping for more than a decade. And now, the latest research has uncovered some super-simple ways to boost your protection even more.
1. Cut your risk with coleslaw.
Eating raw or lightly cooked cabbage three times a week can slash your breast cancer risk 72 percent, a Michigan State University study found. ”Cabbage contains glucosinolates, which break down in the body to detoxify some substances that cause cancer, block cell proliferation and program the death of damaged cells,” says study author Dorothy R. Pathak, PhD. Don’t like cabbage? Try similar cancer-fighting veggies including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.
2. Minimize inflammation by donning a sleep mask.
Exposure to any type of light while you sleep — whether it’s from indoor lamps, street lights, or the glow of an electronic device — “disrupts your production of melatonin, an anti-inflammatory hormone that helps guard against breast cancer,” says University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute oncologist Colin E. Champ, MD. The quick and cost-happy solution? A good sleep mask! Wearing one such as the Jersey Slumber 100% Silk Sleep Mask ($9.89, Amazon) makes it easier to get plenty of the sound sleep needed to lower your breast cancer risk up to 31 percent.
3. Up protection with produce.
A multi-university study of 92,000 women found that foods high in calories but low in nutrients, such as potato chips and sugary sodas, can raise the risk of obesity-related breast cancer 10 percent in postmenopausal women — even if they’re not overweight. By contrast, research in the International Journal of Cancer shows that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, along with fish and beans, cuts breast cancer risk 40 percent.
4. Stand up to rev defenses.
Sitting six or more hours a day can increase the risk of breast cancer 10 percent, the latest research shows. “Protect yourself by getting out of your chair and moving around every 30 minutes,” advises Keith Diaz, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center.
5. How dense are your breasts?
Women whose mammograms show they have dense breasts (there’s more tissue than fat in them) have a higher breast cancer risk, perhaps due to higher estrogen levels. (Dense breasts make mammograms harder to read as both dense tissue and cancers appear white on a mammogram.) The fix: Ask to also be screened with an MRI or ultrasound.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.