Top 10 tips to prevent breast cancer

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Welcome to Breast Cancer Awareness month, when pink ribbons cover everything from toxic cosmetics to BPA-lined food cans, urging us to be aware of breast cancer. But when 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease, how much more awareness do we need? The Breast Cancer Fund is working to shift the conversation from awareness to prevention. The following tips, which are all developed from scientific research, will help turn awareness into individual action in your own life to prevent the disease.

1. Lower your exposure to medical radiation
Although X-rays and CT scans can give critical information for diagnosing medical problems, exposure to this kind of radiation is the longest and most firmly established environmental cause of breast cancer. Keep a record of your medical radiation exposure and discuss with your medical care team whether or not the tests are necessary and whether there may be alternative tests that don’t use radiation, such as an MRI or ultrasound.  

2. If you eat meat, choose hormone-free
The synthetic growth hormone Zeranol is one of the most widely used chemicals in the U.S. beef industry, even though it’s been banned in the European Union since 1989. It mimics estrogen and studies have shown cancer cells exposed to Zeranol-treated beef show significant increases in cancer growth.

3. Choose organic fruits and veggies—avoid pesticides
Pesticides are formulated with the intent of destroying pests—it’s no wonder that they’re harmful to our health as well. Studies have shown that some herbicides and pesticides stimulate growth of breast cancer cells or cause mammary cancer in rats. Therefore, you should go for certified organic produce, which is grown without toxic pesticides and herbicides.

4. Choose cleaning products that tell you what’s in them…or make your own
Ever notice that those strong-smelling window cleaners and scouring powders you use don’t list ingredients on their labels? That’s because no law requires manufacturers to do so, even though these products often contain chemicals linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems. Look for products made by companies that voluntarily disclose ingredients, or learn how to make your own. A little bit of baking soda and vinegar will go a long way.

5. Ditch your Teflon pots and pans
Although there’s no denying they make our life easier, nonstick pans and stain-resistant materials can contain toxic perfluorinated chemicals. These endocrine disruptors have been associated with delayed menstruation, later breast development and increased incidence of breast cancer. Alternatives include anodized aluminum, stainless steel or cast iron.

6. Avoid toxic kids PJs
Even though some flame retardants have been phased out of kids pajamas, these harmful ingredients have been replaced with other dangerous chemicals. Stay away from PJs labeled “flame resistant,” and pick snug-fitting alternatives that provide fire safety without toxic chemicals.

7. Don’t be fooled by “natural” claims on beauty products
The beauty industry is virtually unregulated in the U.S., and many toxic chemicals can be found in the most common of makeup, shampoos, lotions and other personal care products. A claim of “organic” or “natural ingredients” still leaves plenty of room for harmful ingredients.

8. Avoid canned foods
While the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) has been banned from baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging, it is still widely used to line food cans. More than 300 laboratory and human studies have linked low levels of BPA exposure to a staggering number of health problems, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty, and diabetes. Even minuscule amounts have been shown to disrupt normal prenatal development. Avoid canned foods and learn more.

9. Find safe ways to fight germs
Triclosan was initially developed as a surgical scrub for medical professionals, but in recent years it has been added to a host of consumer products, from kitchen cutting boards to shoes. Triclosan in cosmetics, antibacterial soaps and body washes may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Endocrine disruption, allergies, organ system toxicity are among the additional health concerns associated with this prevalent chemical.

10. Know your plastics
Plastic is everywhere—it’s used in consumer products and packaging of all kinds, but there are serious risks to human health and the environment from its widespread use. Vinyl Chloride was one of the first chemicals designated a known human carcinogen. Yet it’s still used in food packaging, medical products, appliances, cars and more.  Avoid plastics that contain phthalates, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which often has the recycling code 3.
More tips for protecting yourself and your family from plastics here. 

Read more about the science behind these tips in the Clear Science Section of our website, which references the growing body of scholarly research on this issue. Get more tips in our Reduce Your Risk section.

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24 thoughts on “Top 10 tips to prevent breast cancer

  1. I am a 41 year old woman living with metastatic breast cancer for the last 3 years. My response to any list about preventing breast cancer is that it feels ‘blamey’. Before cancer I was a recreational triathalete and marathon runner who ate organic and limited meat consumption. I avoided plastic and used beauty products from the health food store. I have incurable cancer. None of my healthy living habits prevented it. My life has been cut short and it is not my fault.

  2. I want to add that monthly self breast exams is the best way to prevent cancer from spreading. Finding a lump early will save your life.

  3. And, while all of this is good information, be careful to not blame those of us who have or get cancer. We can take precautions but we cannot ever guarantee that we will not get cancer.

  4. Look no further than Beautycounter! All of our personal care and cosmetic products go through the strictest safety testing in the industry. Our mission is to get safe products into the hands of everyone. In the EU there are 1400 ingredients that are banned from personal care products. In the US, there are only 11. There hasn’t been a law passed, to govern the safety of this industry since 1938. In terms of “natural” and “organic” they mean nothing when it comes to this industry! In addition to the 1400 ingredients banned in the EU and 11 banned here, Beautycounter has also created a “Neverlist” of ingredients it will not put in it’s products, which includes: parabens, formaldehyde, BPA, mineral oil (all linked to hormone disrupters or known carcinogens).

    In addition to the products being non toxic and safe, they are truly luxurious, chic and effective!

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  5. I love this list, but would love it even more if it included the fact that these tips help prevent MANY types of cancer, including prostate, testicular & of the utmost importance to me, they may help prevent childhood cancer.
    Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death of children in the USA & their incidence rates have been increasing (some types DRAMATICALLY) for many decades.
    Did you know that breast cancer is the #1 secondary cancer diagnosed in childhood cancer survivors.
    I know the world is about to go crazy with Pinktober, but September is childhood cancer awareness month. It’s also ovarian cancer awareness month. I know this because my daughter was 10 yrs old when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 OVCA; she is now a 5 yr survivor.
    She did not have the type of ovarian cancer that most women get, she actually had the same cancer that Lance Armstrong had, a germ cell tumor.
    GCTs are responsible for more than 90% of testicular cancer diagnoses & incidence rates have been increasing for many years. GCTs in children are also increasing at an alarming rate. And GCTs have been repeatedly linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals.
    Cancer prevention is important for EVERY member of the family 🙂

  6. Anti-perspirant! Remove that from your daily routine. Use plain deodorant, or better yet, cut up a lime and use the lime (seriously, this is SO simple and amazing).

    Also, drink lemon water first thing in the morning. Warm is fine…

    And take a kelp supplement with iodine in it. Iodine has been known to prevent breast cancer.

    Alkaline diet. No sugar. Very low amounts of grains.

    Healthy saturated fats.

    I have a dear friend battling triple negative breast cancer and she is definitely going to come out of this stronger than ever!

  7. What about the use of parabens, as preservatives, especially methylparaben and propylparaben used in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial and shower cleansers, etc? There is a need to learn more about the use of these chemicals and a possible link to cancer. I always look for paraben free products.

  8. Wow, these are nearly all environmental in one way or another. What about exercise? Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage? Limiting alcohol consumption? Rejecting replacement hormone therapy after menopause? Have these been found to pale in comparison to the ten points mentioned here? These are all things much more in our control than some mentioned here, and have been deemed important in the past. Did something change?

  9. The EPA said that all fragrances they tested had toluene, a known carcinogen, in it. Many people wear fragrance and/or some fragranced product 24/7/365. By wearing fragrance or using scented personal care, laundry and cleaning products you are exposing yourself to cancer causing chemicals all the time. To add to that many are exposed to/use air fresheners, plug ins and scented candles. Fragrance products do not have to list ingredients and are not tested for safety. Studies show that 95% of the ingredients used in making fragrance are petrochemical derivatives. When you breath and absorb all those synthetic, many times toxic (and cancer causing) chemicals on a regular basis your body and it’s organs have to work harder to eliminate them from your system and many get stored in your tissue. The CDC says that we all have alarming amounts of numerous chemicals in our blood and our tissue. They don’t yet know what health issues those chemicals stored in our body will cause, but there are many studies showing chemicals causing not only cancer, but many other health issues. Using fragrance and fragranced products is a choice and it is one synthetic (cancer causing) chemical exposure everyone can choose not to use. It will help not only their own health, but the health of their families (including the fetus growing in the womb, co-workers and everyone they come in contact with.

  10. In April of 2012, I was Diagnosed with HER2 Breast Cancer in my Left Breast. Mine was a very Rapid Growing Type. No one in my Family Had Breast Cancer. I missed my Mamogram by 6 months and was a Stage II & was told I would have died within 6 mths if I hadn’t gone to have a Mamograham. I had a Bilateral Mastectomy, 6 mths of Chemo & a year of Herceptin. I am Cancer Free 2yrs 5mths. So I urge you to do your research on HOW NOT TO GET BREAST CANCER, GET YOUR YEARLY MAMOGRAMS, SELF BREAST EXAMINATIONS. BY DOING THE ABOVE, YOU ARE EDUCATING YOURSELF GOR THEY ARE YOUR BREAST, TAKE CARE OF THEM TO LIVE. GOD BLESS YOU ALL WHO IS READING THIS & PASS THE WORD AROUND!!!!!!

  11. This article forgot to include pesticides, moldicides, insecticides and all chemicals that kill living things. Also, emissions from incinerators, truck exhaust, car exhaust, burning of fossil fuels, other combustion byproducts, smelters, asbestos in brakes, flooring, formaldehyde, etc. ETC.

  12. Thank you for the great tips that could potentially save my life. I pretty much follow many of these already, but still need to do more. Thank you so much!

  13. You are missing an important tip: avoid Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT). Women taking Estrogen-progestin therapy (EPT)higher risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who didn’t take hormones.” Why are companies still making estrogen and progesterone and doctors still prescribing them when there are many published medical studies that have led doctors to conclude that the risks of MHT often outweigh the benefits? For how long are we, women, going to continue being a money making machine for members of congress and companies that do not care about our well-being?

  14. Also, if you’re a mother or will become one, the longer you breastfeed your kids, the better odds you have of avoiding breast cancer.

  15. Thank you for this list. In light of some recent findings by some breast cancer surgeons and the fact that some women keep their cell phones in their bras (or men in breast pocket) it would be helpful, as a precautionary measure, to address this also. All cell phone manuals tell one to not keep the phone on right next to the body yet few see this.

  16. When will manufacturers develop a conscience? Supeme court says they are people…without humanity. Without humanity there is no conscience

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