4 Steps to Take Control of Your Breast Health

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4 Steps to Take Control of Your Breast Health

Of course, knowing your family history and keeping up with regular clinical exams are both key to your health, but did you know that there is a multitude of other measures you can take to care for your breasts? Make your breast health a priority with these super simple lifestyle tips.


Self-exams aren’t as accurate as clinical breast exams or mammograms, so they shouldn’t be your only screening measure. However, it’s still a good idea to get to know what’s normal for your breasts, as you might notice a change in between appointments that you can then more quickly bring to the attention of your doctor. You know your breasts best!

The Susan G. Komen foundation advises taking note of any changes in breast size and shape, any new pain, nipple discharge, rashes, or discoloration of the skin. These self-exams are particularly crucial for women under the age of 40, as they aren’t required to undergo clinical exams or mammograms nearly as often. It’s best to conduct these self-exams monthly, ideally after your period ends and your breasts return to a “normal” state after any hormonal changes.


Wear supportive, well-fitting bras

The debate about whether underwire bras can raise your risk of developing breast cancer has been debunked by countless physicians, so if you feel more comfortable wearing one regularly, don’t stress. However, it’s crucial that your bra fits properly: A bra that’s far too tight could restrict lymph drainage, which plays a key role in breast health.

The lymphatic system is responsible for aiding in removing toxins and waste from breast tissue and other parts of the body, so you don’t want to wear a bra that’s so tight that the underwire puts excess pressure on it. So you might consider getting professionally fitted to ensure you’re wearing the right size bra. The good news is that you can also find a supportive bra that offers shaping, definition, and lift without the wires.

A well-constructed, supportive sports bra is also key. Physical activity puts a lot of strain on your breasts from all the bouncing, and as breasts have no muscle, support from a bra is key to preventing the skin and Cooper’s ligaments (which are responsible for maintaining their shape) from breaking down. Look for a bra with wide, adjustable straps that offer adequate bounce control whether you’re participating in low-impact or high-impact exercise.


Get moving

There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to incorporate regular exercise in your life in regards to your breast health efforts. An American Cancer Society study discovered that women who’d gained 21 to 30 pounds since the age of 18 were 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who gained a maximum of 5 pounds. This is because estrogen increases the more fat in a woman’s body, and estrogen is a hormone that can stimulate cell overgrowth, which can lead to breast cancer.

Fortunately, studies have shown that exercise can lower levels of estrogen by a notable 10 to 20 percent. You don’t have to train for a marathon to experience these benefits, either: the Women’s Health Initiative found that women who simply walked briskly for 1¼ to 2½ hours a week had an 18 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who weren’t active at all. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week in order to protect yourself from breast cancer (as well as other cancers).

Eat right

There are plenty of health reasons why you want to be conscious of your diet, and that includes decreasing your risk of breast cancer. Harvard researchers found that women who had the highest carotenoid levels in their blood had a 19% lower risk of breast cancer. Moreover, women who consumed more carotenoids had an even lower risk of developing the more aggressive estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer. Carotenoids can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, and apricots.


Specifically, lycopene (which is found in tomatoes), was found by one study to be the most effective carotenoid in reducing breast cancer risk. Sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, has also been found to inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. Damaged DNA has been linked to cancer, but folate is known to have the ability to repair it — find this naturally occurring form of folic acid in foods such as black-eyed peas, spinach, and fortified cereals. When taking a vitamin, look on the ingredient list specifically for “folate” instead of “folic acid.”

The American Cancer Society advises consuming at least five servings of fruits and veggies daily, as well as limiting your consumption of processed and red meats, and opting for whole grains, to help reduce risks of all cancer types.

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but it’s worth noting that alcohol consumption also increases estrogen levels, thus raising your risk of developing breast cancer. So try to limit yourself to one drink a night.


About the Author /


A native of Austria, Angela knows how to explain comfort in four languages. With 20 years in the industry, she has experience in all aspects of product marketing. For the past five years, she has led product development strategy and implementation for Glamorise.com.


  • Soma Grismaijer
    February 22, 2018

    Actually, there are numerous studies done internationally which show wearing bras causes breast cancer. I am a medical anthropologist breast cancer researcher and co-author of Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. Tight bras are also the leading cause of breast pain and cysts, condition which tens of millions of women suffer from. The fact is that bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the tighter and longer the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to over 100 times higher for a 24/7 bra-user compared to a bra-free woman. Breast movement is also important for strengthening the Cooper’s ligaments and connective tissue. The artificial support from the bra causes the breast ligaments to weaken and atrophy, causing droopy breasts. The breasts lift and tone once the bra is no longer worn.

    Of course, this is a controversial topic in a culture where one million bras are sold daily (in the US alone). Lots of money at stake. And the medical community is more invested in cancer detection and treatment than prevention, especially with a lifestyle change that challenges cultural norms. But the research is there. You only need to look at it.

    Better yet, try going bra-free for one month. Most women who try this experience reduction of breast pain and cysts. Your body will know the difference. You can also join the International Bra-Free Study at BraFreeStudy dot org.

  • Soma Grismaijer
    February 22, 2018

    1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”

    1991-93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Second Edition, Square One Publishers, 2018). Found that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. 24/7 bra wearing increases incidence over 100 times that of a bra-free woman.

    Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000). Found 24 case histories of breast cancer in a culture where half the women are bra-free. The women getting breast cancer were all wearing bras. Given women with the same genetics and diet and living in the same village, the ones getting breast disease were the ones wearing bras for work.

    A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451-3.) found that NOT sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60%.

    2015 Comparative study of breast cancer risk factors at Kenyatta National Hospital and the Nairobi Hospital J. Afr. Cancer (2015) 7:41-46. This study found a significant bra-cancer link in pre-and post-menopausal women.

    2016 Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Adv Oncol Res Treat 1: 105. This is the first epidemiological study to look at bra tightness and time worn, and found a significant bra-cancer link.

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