Eating peanut butter and breastfeeding. These two activities may seem like they have nothing in common. But recent research suggests they may be two of the latest ways you can curb your risk for breast cancer.
Breastfeeding doesn't just benefit the baby. In a small Spanish study, researchers reviewed the health history of 500 women with breast cancer. They found that nonsmoking women who breastfed for at least 6 months during their lives were diagnosed with the disease at an older age—an average of 10 years later—than other women in the study. Breastfeeding may give some protection by depleting the levels of cancer-linked hormones—namely, estrogen—in the body. That's good news for the growing number of American women who breastfeed.
Being overweight or obese can raise your risk for diabetes and heart disease. It may also factor in with breast cancer. Scientists in Japan studied how weight gain and age interplayed with breast cancer in a group of more than 36,000 women. They found that women older than age 60 who gained more than 22 pounds since their 20s were more likely to develop the disease. The finding stresses how important it is to maintain a healthy weight.
Drinking alcohol can contribute to breast cancer. And now a recent study suggests timing may matter, too. Researchers followed more than 91,000 women for 14 years. The women were periodically asked about their past alcohol intake. Those who drank more alcohol when they were young—before their first pregnancy—were more likely to develop breast cancer and benign breast disease, a condition that can lead to breast cancer. The results indicate alcohol may be more damaging to younger women's breast tissue. Pregnancy, though, may limit alcohol's effect by altering hormone levels—just like breastfeeding.
A common lunchbox favorite, the PB and J—in particular, the PB—may help your daughter avoid breast cancer. That's the conclusion of a recent study of more than 9,000 girls ages 9 to 15. They were asked about their annual food intake for 5 years. Those who ate more peanut butter and nuts had a lower risk for benign breast disease in their 20s. Eating such foods regularly at age 11 translated into a 44% lower risk.
Omega-3 fatty acids are better known for their heart-promoting potential. But a recent review of 26 studies on these nutrients supports a breast cancer connection. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as beans, walnuts, olive oil, and certain fish. In their investigation, researchers discovered that fatty acids only in fish decreased the occurrence of breast cancer, particularly in older women. Fish you may want to add to your plate: sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, and cod.
Looking for other ways to keep your breasts healthy? Follow this three-step plan.