We are convinced that genetics play a significant role in breast cancer risk but there is also evidence that risk is impacted by factors such as food and nutrition and physical activity. A report published by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund on food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer provides some recommendations for cancer prevention based on a meta-analysis of existing research.
The recommendations are:
1. Be as lean as possible. Body fat should be maintained at the lower end of body mass index or BMI for age throughout childhood and adolescence and within the normal range after age 21. Weight gain and increase in waist circumference should be avoided in adulthood.
2. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. Avoid sugary drinks and consume soft drinks sparingly.
3. Eat mostly foods of plant origin. Eat at least five portions/servings (that is, at least 400 g or 14 oz) of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits every day. Eat relatively unprocessed cereals (grains) and/or pulses (legumes) with every meal. Limit refined starchy foods. People who consume starchy roots or tubers as staples should eat enough non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and pulses (legumes).
4. Limit the intake of red meats and avoid processed meats. People who eat red meat should consume less than 500 g
(18 oz) a week and very little of it, if any, should be processed.
5. Limit alcoholic drinks. If alcoholic drinks are consumed, limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women.
6. Limit consumption of salts and avoid mouldy cereals and legumes. Avoid salt-preserved, salted or salty foods and preserve foods without using salt. Limit consumption of processed foods with added salt to help control salt intake to less than 6g (2.4g sodium) a day. Do not eat mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
7. Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone. Dietary supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention.
8. Aim to breastfeed infants exclusively up to six months.
9. Be physically active every day. Moderate physical activity, equivalent to brisk walking for at least 30 minutes every day is recommended. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate activity, or for 30 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity every day. Limit sedentary habits such as watching television.