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Breast cancer: recommended lifestyle changes

Like many other cancers, you may have risk factors that are beyond the control of lifestyle changes. For example, if you have a family history of breast cancer or there is a strong indication that you may have inherited mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may be at high risk for getting breast cancer.[1]

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are actually good genes in your body that produce proteins that help stabilize your cell’s genetic material.1 If either of these genes mutate, however, you may actually be at greater risk for breast cancer.1 These mutations are relatively rare, so discuss this risk factor with your healthcare provider before requesting mutation testing.1

The following are recommendations on lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of breast cancer:[2]

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight (maintaining a consistent weight is better for you than a cycle of gaining and losing weight).
  • Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).
  • Try to get adequate sleep at night.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals that are known carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).
  • Limit exposure to any medical imaging tests that use radiation if not medically necessary.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills).
  • Ask your healthcare provider about possible benefits of breastfeeding in preventing cancer.
  • Don’t smoke.

Let’s talk a little more about the role of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.[3] Women need the hormone known as estrogen. Our bodies produce it naturally, but estrogen can stimulate cell overgrowth and result in a type of breast cancer associated with estrogen production.3

Before menopause, your ovaries produce most of your estrogen.3 After menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue.3 So keeping your body fat content down (with a combination of healthy eating and exercise) reduces the production of estrogen.3

When you exercise, you also improve the radio of “good” estrogen to “bad” estrogen by about 25%.3

The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly—or 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.[4] If this sounds familiar, it’s because this consistency and intensity is also recommended for preventing or managing other diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.







This information is intended to provide general guidance on health and wellness matters and is not medical advice. MetLife is not responsible for the accuracy of this information, which may not apply to your particular circumstances, so you rely on it at your own risk. You should always consult a licensed health care professional for the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and before starting or changing your health regimen, including seeking advice regarding what drugs, diet, exercise routines, physical activities or procedures are appropriate for your particular condition and circumstances.