11/01/2012 09:54 am ET Updated Dec 25, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 230,000 new cases of breast cancer and 40,000 related deaths will occur in 2012. There is no proven way to prevent breast cancer. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help reduce your risk and provide a healthier foundation to fight breast cancer should you get it.

All women are susceptible to breast cancer but some have a higher risk. If you have a family history of breast cancer, are overweight, are 35 years or older, had your first child after age 35, began menstruation before age 12 or menopause after age 55 you are at greater risk. Breast cancer can occur in men but it is rare.

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn't automatically make cancer inevitable in the same way that following a strict diet or exercise routine doesn't make you invincible to it. Many questions remain regarding the link between diet and breast cancer. However, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and eating well can help.

Foods high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients may be protective against some types of cancers, including breast cancer. Focus on:

  • a variety of fruits including blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • plenty of vegetables especially cruciferous and dark leafy greens like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and alliums like onions and garlic.
  • plant-based protein sources from adzuki beans and chickpeas to pinto beans.
  • whole grains including brown or black rice, oats, barley, farro and whole grain pastas and cereals.

As mentioned earlier, weight is closely correlated with breast cancer. So staying active is another way to help reduce your risk of getting breast cancer all while maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. And being active is easier than you think. Take the stairs, engage your office in walking meetings, walk to lunch instead of driving and designate some "me time" to work up a sweat at the gym, in the park or on the dance floor.