One of the strongest risk factors for developing breast cancer is having one or more close family members—such as a mother, sister, or aunt—with history of the disease. Of course, there’s not much you can do to change that risk factor.
But, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, even women with a higher genetic susceptibility can make some basic lifestyle changes to significantly reduce their risk…
Healthy lifestyle reduces risk, even in genetically susceptible women
For this new analysis, researchers from the U.K. followed more than 90,000 post-menopausal women for 10 years.
First, the researchers assessed the women’s genetic risk of developing breast cancer by looking at family history. Accordingly, they categorized the women into three groups: low, intermediate, or high genetic risk.
Then, they looked at five healthy lifestyle factors known to reduce risk among women:
- Engaging in moderate exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting alcohol consumption to moderate amounts
- No hormone replacement therapy (HRT) beyond five years
- No oral contraceptive (OC) use
Women with four or more of these factors were deemed to have a “favorable” lifestyle. Women with two or three factors had an “intermediate” lifestyle. And women with only one factor (or no factors) had an “unfavorable” lifestyle.
It turns out, having a “favorable” lifestyle was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer—even among women at high genetic risk for the disease. However, having an “unfavorable” or “intermediate” lifestyle was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, on average.
In addition, among the women with low genetic risk, having an “unfavorable” or “intermediate” lifestyle was associated with a 40 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, on average. And among those with intermediate genetic risk, having an “unfavorable” or “intermediate” lifestyle was associated with a 37 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, on average.
So, clearly, lifestyle choices can make a big difference in risk among all women, even those with a higher genetic susceptibility. And, for women with low genetic susceptibility, lifestyle factors were even MORE important.
I should also note that this study focused exclusively on postmenopausal women, who have a higher rate of breast cancer than pre-menopausal women, simply due to their increasing age—which is the single, strongest cancer risk factor. But the disease is very different in older women versus younger, premenopausal women. For example, in younger women, genetic factors are even stronger, and the cancer is more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Now, let’s move on to a few more important points to consider…
Many more ways women can lower their risk
I personally found it very interesting that the researchers in this study did not consider diet as a healthy lifestyle factor that reduces a women’s risk of developing breast cancer.
But this omission illustrates that we’ve made some scientific progress. Because, for decades, experts insisted that eating saturated fats—as found in foods like dairy, eggs, and meat—increased a women’s risk of developing breast cancer. Of course, there was never any evidence to support that claim.
On the other hand, I believe researchers missed a golden opportunity to spotlight how following a healthy, balanced Mediterranean-type diet lowers risk of not just cancer…but all chronic diseases.
The study’s researchers also failed to recognize the ability of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and selenium, to prevent and even reverse breast cancer. Nor did they mention the known benefits of spending time in Nature and limiting nighttime light exposure.
In the end, if you have a family history of breast cancer, you should be more vigilant about performing breast self-examinations and going to the doctor for regular physical examinations. (Remember, studies show that physical examination by yourself and your doctor is just as good—if not better—than getting mammograms.)
However, as this study shows, even if you do have a genetic susceptibility to breast cancer, you can lower your risk by getting moderate exercise (140 minutes per week, preferably outdoors), keeping a healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol consumption, and avoiding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptive (OC) hormone drugs. I would also urge you to make sure you spend some time each day outside in Nature, limit nighttime light exposure, and supplement daily with 10,000 IU of vitamin D and 100 mcg of selenium.
Of course, there are dozens of natural approaches to help prevent all types of cancer in the first place. And I’ve outlined them all in great detail in my groundbreaking online learning tool, my Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol.
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“Association of Nongenetic Factors With Breast Cancer Risk in Genetically Predisposed Groups of Women in the UK Biobank Cohort.” JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e203760. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3760