By Lindsey Brumm, RD, LD

As you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the disease and to raise funds to support research for prevention, treatments, and for finding a cure.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year more than 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States alone. It is the most common form of cancer affecting women. Although several risk factors for this disease are out of our control, such as being over the age of 50, female, and having a family history, there are many things you can do to reduce your overall risk of breast cancer.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is very important when trying to reduce your risk of breast cancer.  Excess fat tissue can raise estrogen levels in the body, increasing your risk. Higher insulin levels can also occur when you are overweight and have also been linked to breast cancer. Fortunately, many of the things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer can also help control our weight. For example, studies have shown that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. It is thought that exercise helps regulate estrogen and insulin in the body to which helps reduce the risk of breast cancer. Each week 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity is recommended, preferably spread throughout the week.

Dietary factors can also play a key role breast cancer prevention. Plant-based foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are filled with antioxidants that help protect the cells in our body from damage that can lead to cancer.  These foods also contain phytochemicals that help strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. 5 cups of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day is recommended. Fruits with dark red and purple coloring signify high antioxidant and phytochemical properties, like berries, red and purple grapes, and pomegranate. The Breast Center at John Hopkins Medicine has also found a substance in broccoli that can prevent the dividing and multiplying of breast cancer cells, thus inhibiting its growth. Carrots can also be beneficial because an antioxidant they contain, called carotenoids, inhibit cancer cell growth by neutralizing free radicals.

Even with all of these tips for reducing your risk for breast cancer, early detection is still essential. Breast cancer is much easier to treat if it is detected when it is small and has not spread. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women by the age of 45 or by the age of 40 if you have a family history of breast cancer. Mammograms can detect a tumor up to two years before it can be felt by you or your doctor. More research is needed for further screening, prevention, and treatment methods in addition to finding a cure. It is a great time to donate to a breast cancer organization, such as Susan G. Komen (, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month to help fund these initiatives.



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast Cancer Awareness. Last updated September 12, 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.
  2. American Cancer Society. Lifestyle-related Breast Cancer Risk Factors. Last updated September 10, 2019. Accessed September 23, 2019.
  3. Early Detection and Breast Cancer. Updated February 25, 2016. Accessed October 13, 2019.
  4. Anderson Lucia, Carole. 10 Foods That May Help Prevent Breast Cancer. Published October 7, 2019. Accessed October 8, 2019.