Getting a Jump Start on Breast Cancer Prevention

With high school students focused on making the varsity squad, getting into their dream college, and which TikTok video just went viral; they are losing sight that their lifestyle choices can have a dramatic lifelong impact on their breast health. Research reveals that the in young men and women undergoes significant structural changes during . As a result, chemical and environmental exposures during the teen years can heavily influence breast tissue.1

With one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer and male breast cancer on the rise, it’s imperative to highlight prevention techniques in high school.2 These are our top tips to lower cancer risk:

Listen to Your Mother and Eat Your Veggies– A balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products has shown to decrease the risk of cancer.3 High intake of fiber during adolescent years has shown to reduce the risk for breast cancer before by 24%.4 It is best to avoid a diet that consists of highly refined sugars, red meat and processed meats, highly processed grains, and high-fat dairy products as they are all associated with increased risk of cancer.5,6,7

Move More– Maintaining an active lifestyle allows you to achieve a leaner body, enhances your mood, improves sleep, and boosts your immune system. Exercising can also lower body fat percentage which helps lower levels resulting in decreased breast cancer risk.8,9 A 2016 study showed that young women who exercised at least four hours a week were able to reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 60%.10

Rethink the DrinkAlcohol affects the way estrogen is . Research has shown that having one drink per day increases the risk for breast cancer by nearly 10% in women and 16% in men.11,12 In a Danish study, it was seen that women who regularly binge drink, which is considered four or more drinks in one sitting, can increase the risk for breast cancer by 55% compared to non-drinkers.13

Kick the HabitSmoking and vaping exposes the body to cancer-causing chemicals and nicotine which can accelerate growth.  Studies indicate that individuals who smoked during their teen years significantly increase their risk for breast cancer compared to non-smokers.14 Many of those same chemicals are found in vape products lending to a similar long-term risk.15,16

Get to Know Yourself– Early detection of breast cancer is the key to survival.  Every year in the United States, more than 12,000 women in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed with breast cancer.2 It is important to know how your chest tissue looks and feels, so that when a change occurs it can be easily detected.   Share the Maurer Foundation’s breast self-exam instructions– you might just save a life!

Originally published in Physical & Health Education America e-newsletter 9/21/21

  1. Terry, Mary & Michels, Karin & Brody, Julia & Byrne, Celia & Chen, Shiuan & Jerry, D Joseph & Malecki, Kristen & Martin, Mary & Miller, Rachel & Neuhausen, Susan & Silk, Kami & Trentham-Dietz, Amy. (2019). Environmental exposures during windows of for breast cancer: A framework for prevention research. Breast Cancer Research. 21. 10.1186/s13058-019-1168-2.
  2. Surveillance, , and End Results (SEER) Program ( SEER*Stat Database: – SEER Research Data, 9 Registries, Nov 2020 Sub (1975-2018) – Linked To County Attributes – Time Dependent (1990-2018) Income/Rurality, 1969-2019 Counties, National Cancer Institute, DCCPS, Surveillance Research Program, released April 2021, based on the November 2020 submission.
  3. “Dietary Factors and Female Breast Cancer Risk: A Prospective Cohort Study,” MDPI, 2017.
  4. Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016.
  5. Grilled, Barbecued, and Smoked Meat Intake and Survival Following Breast Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2017.
  6. “High Glucose Levels Promote the Proliferation of Breast Cancer Cells Through GTPases,” Breast Cancer – Targets and Therapy, 2017.
  7. “Consumption of Red and Processed Meat and Breast Cancer : A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies,” International Journal of Cancer, 2018.
  8. Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials”. JAMA Oncology. 2015.
  9. “The Premenopausal Breast Cancer Collaborative Group. Association of Body Mass Index and Age with Subsequent Breast Cancer Risk in Premenopausal Women. JAMA Oncology. 2018.
  10. “Physical Exercise and Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer in Young Women,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2016.
  11. “Alcohol Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk by Estrogen Receptor Status: In a Pooled Analysis of 20 Studies,” International Journal of , 2016.
  12. Guénel P, Cyr D, Sabroe S, et al. Alcohol drinking may increase risk of breast cancer in men: a European population-based case-control study. Cancer Causes Control. 2004.
  13. “Alcohol Drinking, Consumption Patterns and Breast Cancer Among Danish Nurses: A Cohort Study,” European Journal of Public Health, 2007.
  14. “Recent Insights into Cigarette Smoking as a Lifestyle for Breast Cancer,” Breast Cancer: Targets and Therapy, 2017.
  15. “Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols,” New England Journal of Medicine, 2015.