Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
It’s troubling to read that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will face an invasive breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Thankfully with better research and screening, survival rates have improved over the last decade at least in women over 50 (according to BreastCancer.org). Still, there is much more work ahead to improve the odds.
While it’s great that there’s generally a higher awareness around finding a cure to breast cancer, one very important thing is often overlooked — proactive steps we can take to protect our breast health.
Yes, genetics have a lot to do with breast cancer risk (more on that below), but there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your chances of getting that dreaded diagnosis — no side effects necessary.
(And in case you were wondering, the same goes for other women’s health issues, like your vaginal health.)
What Causes Breast Cancer?
There are a wide variety of risk factors for breast cancer. Research finds that a lack of vitamins (particularly vitamin D), toxins from deodorants, hormones all play a big role in breast-related problems.
You should also examine your family history, which also plays a part. Fortunately, your lifestyle choices can have a big impact and can even help override genetic predisposition.
The following suggestions for improving your breast health are non-invasive and, as a bonus, will also support the health of the rest of the body!
How to Care for Breast Health
An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure, they say…
1. Practice Self-Exams and Get Regular Check-Ups
Breast health is a complex subject, and the following are only a few of the ways I’ve chosen to support healthy breasts. I want to start out by saying that the following natural tips cannot replace advice from a medical professional.
Learn how to do a breast self-exam (see point 9 below) and research your options for diagnostic screenings like mammograms or thermography (my thoughts on those here).
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a real food diet of whole, fresh foods prepared at home can greatly reduce your chances of breast cancer. Research finds that cancerous breast tissue often contains high amounts of chemicals like aluminum and parabens, so avoiding processed foods in favor of fresh produce will help keep you healthy.
Plus, a whole foods diet will also help avoid estrogen-like compounds that mess with your hormones and could contribute to breast cancer. These dangerous compounds are found in packaged and canned foods, plastics, soy products, birth control pills, and are even in the water supply due to run-off from factory farms. Most water treatments do not remove these compounds, so it’s up to us to filter out these toxins. I like to use a reverse osmosis filter with a drop of trace minerals, so we still get those good vitamins without all the toxins.
Be sure to eat lots of foods rich in antioxidants to help stave off cancer. Research shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy omega-3 fats like olive oil and flax seeds can keep help reduce cancer-inducing inflammation.
3. Take Herbs and Supplements for Breast Health
There are lots of important vitamins for breast health, but vitamin D is arguably the most important nutrient you can get.
A study from the University of California reported:
University of California researchers estimate 250,000 cases of colon cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D. Sunlight spurs production of vitamin D in the skin, and people who don’t get much sun exposure tend to have lower levels of the vitamin.
The best way to get vitamin D is from moderate and safe exposure to the sun. I recommend supplementing this practice with a skin-supporting diet that maximizes vitamin D production.
As I mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids are also great for breast health. Scientists theorize that omega-3s work by reducing the effect of those estrogen-like compounds that sneak into your system, helping to decrease inflammation. A few great sources of omega-3s (other than supplements) are wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats.
Curcumin, an extract from turmeric, is another potent antioxidant that can help boost breast health. You can take it in capsule form (I use this brand), or use turmeric liberally in your cooking or in a daily cup of golden milk.
4. Choose Deodorant Wisely
There’s an ongoing debate about whether chemicals in deodorants and antiperspirants can damage your breast health. One study found aluminum in cancerous breast tissue removed during a mastectomy. The aluminum concentration was higher in tissue near the armpit.
Since many commercial deodorants also contain parabens and estrogen-mimicking chemicals that may also impact breast health, it’s best to avoid them if you can. There are lots of natural, inexpensive, effective deodorant options on the market that do not contain any of these chemicals.
You can also make your own deodorant right at home using one of my easy recipes:
5. Choose the Right Bra
Your bra is another risk factor that you may not have considered. Wearing underwire or otherwise snug-fitting bras might restrict lymph flow, impeding the body’s ability to remove toxins from your armpit area. As this article from Michael Schachter, MD explains:
Over 85 percent of the lymph fluid flowing from the breast drains to the armpit lymph nodes. Most of the rest drains to the nodes along the breast bone. Bras and other external tight clothing can impede flow.
The nature of the bra, the tightness, and the length of time worn, will all influence the degree of blockage of lymphatic drainage. Thus, wearing a bra might contribute to the development of breast cancer as a result of cutting off lymphatic drainage, so that toxic chemicals are trapped in the breast.
A book written on the subject, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, claims that:
- Women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer.
- Those who wore bras more than 12 hours per day, but not to bed, had a 1 out of 7 risk.
- Women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 out of 52 risk.
- Those who wore bras rarely or never had a 1 out of 168 risk.
While this topic has been surprisingly controversial, my personal take is that it doesn’t hurt to wear underwire bras as minimally as possible. While it might not be possible to go braless very often, I suggest at least wearing a healthier bra.
I personally like wire-free, full-coverage Coobie bras, which are also equipped with removable pads that you can replace with nursing pads while nursing.
While researchers continue to debate the link between bras and breast cancer, I’m definitely more comfortable!
6. Work Toward Hormone Balance
Hormones play a tremendous role in breast cancer, which is why HRT, contraceptives, and procedures that unnaturally alter your hormones can increase the risk of breast problems.
Hormonal contraceptives, by their nature, work to alter the normal hormone function of the body to prevent pregnancy. As the packaging of any hormonal contraceptive will explain, this puts the user at a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, blood clots, stroke, bone loss, and more.
The link between contraceptives and cancer has been well documented. Injectable contraceptives seem to carry an increased risk, with one study showing that they double breast cancer risk.
Additionally, taking medications that alter hormones (like contraception or HRT) can mask symptoms of hormone-related problems and make them harder to detect.
Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a breast surgical oncologist, claims that the pill is responsible for a 660% rise in non-invasive breast cancer since 1973.
This is a topic I highly encourage women to research themselves. Personally, I even suggest skipping hormonal contraceptives in favor of more natural alternatives, like charting your ovulation.
Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is important when it comes to breast health. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of all cancers, including breast cancer.
Plus, exercise increases circulation and lymph flow, which helps your body eliminate toxins. Exercise also encourages proper hormone production and function, which can help balance the presence of excess estrogen in the body.
Gentle movements like walking, light jogging, and bouncing on a trampoline or rebounder appear to be beneficial due to the lymph-stimulating activity they promote. Stretching, pilates, and weight training also help improve hormone responses and lower cortisol, blood sugar, and other factors that can affect hormones.
One particular exercise that is touted for its lymph and circulatory effects is the T-Tapp System, which is low-impact and very gentle on the muscles and joints. I tried it and was amazed by how much a simple 15-minute increases circulation and works the muscles, yet it didn’t make me sore (supposedly from the lymph-draining aspect).
Here is my complete list of lymph-circulating activities. They also have a host of other benefits besides breast health, so there is nothing to lose!
Lifestyle Factors That Help (or Hurt) Breast Health
Other lifestyle factors have been correlated with an increased or decreased risk of breast cancer.
Factors that researchers believe might decrease your risk of breast cancer include:
- Breastfeeding your children for at least six months each (preferably for a year)
- Having more than one child
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Eating an antioxidant and omega-3 rich diet
- Getting enough vitamin D from sunlight or supplements
On the other hand, research points to a possible increase in your risk of breast cancer with these factors:
- Having your first child after age 30 (or not having children)
- Being overweight
- Having multiple pregnancies but not breastfeeding
- Low vitamin D levels
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Light exposure at night, which decreases melatonin production (read tips for optimizing sleep here)
How to Boost Breast Health
As a quick recap, remember to do the following to keep your breasts happy and healthy:
- Eat a healthy diet composed of whole, real foods. Avoid processed foods like grains, sugars, and vegetable oils.
- Drink plenty of filtered water and herbal teas like green tea.
- Consider supplements like omega-3 oil and curcumin, especially if you have a known deficiency.
- Get a comfy and non-restrictive bra.
- Carefully research any medications that can impact hormone levels, and consider natural options.
- Exercise regularly, preferably with an exercise regimen that supports lymph health, like rebounding on a trampoline.
- Keep stress at a minimum with yoga, meditation, or tapping.
- Get plenty of sleep at night (sleep optimizing tips here).
- Conduct regular breast self-exams (Here’s how to do it).
I also encourage you to check out my podcast interviews or transcripts with breast health experts like Dr. V and Diane Kazer.
While listening, I’ll be comfy in my underwire-free bra, sipping a cup of herbal tea, and jumping on a mini-trampoline!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
Do you do anything natural to help improve the health of your breasts? Share below!
Discussion (99 Comments)
Wow, both helpful and not helpful for me today. This is the 4th day I’ve been having breast pain radiating towards my right nipple. It started from my sternum to my nipple, but yesterday my armpit was included. My armpit is incredibly tender as well. I follow pretty much all of these directions, except I’m overweight and don’t exercise a ton, and while I still use deoderant, I don’t use much or everyday and haven’t for two years, so I have no idea what is going on and obviously it’s easy to get scared. I can’t afford to go to a doctor for another week and I guess I hope it resolves on its own in the mean time.
I just found this site recently and I’m extremely happy about it! While reading through these comments, I could not skip yours. I have been having a pain very similar to what you are describing. I wouldn’t freak out about it yet. Actually, it is rare that pain is initially associated with a tumor. I have had pain, as you describe. It increases with deep breathing, coughing and use of that arm. It sometimes shoots into my armpit. I went to the ER. I was so worried. My mom had breast cancer twice. Long story short, they did an x-ray and an ultrasound. Both came back negative. I did some research and then went to the doctor. She diagnosed it as costochondritis, as I suspected. Look it up. It is an inflammation of the cartilage where the ribs and sternum meet. I actually have a lump there. There isn’t much to be done for it, if that’s what you have. It is mostly unexplained and untreatable, unless you want the usual handout of meds. Chiropractic may help you. It’s not fun either, but better than our other concern! I wish you the best. Hopefully, you will find out what is wrong.
Awesome post! Thank you for sharing your research. So helpful!
WOW…Awesome article. I found the part on bras very informative. I am a DD too and live in a sports bra. So these bras you linked us to really work for you?….I think I am going to try them. Amazon says best for A/B cups. Obviously you must like them if you said so…but just want to make sure before I buy for my DD’s! Thanks so much for the link to the bras!!!
I was shocked how much I liked them. I bough the first one on a recommendation from a friend but didn’t have high hopes for it. The material is very form fitting without being tight, if that makes sense. I’ve had trouble with regular sports bras in the because in order to be big enough to cover my breasts, it is almost always too loose around my bust line… These are stretchy enough that they do both without being too tight… I haven’t actually tried the plus ones, but if anyone has, I”d love to hear how it worked for them…
I’d love to go wireless (and cheaper!!) and these look like they’d be great for nursing, but to be specific, I wore a 32G pre-pregnancy and now I’m almost halfway through and wearing a 32I or J. I found the Coobie plus size but it says the band size fits a 38-42, which means my ribcage will drown and my breasts will have zippo support! Does anybody know of comfy bras like the Coobies that might plausibly fit that size range?
Thank you so much for introducing me to this bra…I just bought the NEW!!! FULL Size Coobie Seamless Bra from the Coobie website. It says it fits 38A to 42D-DD. Yeah-Ho….This just made my day…The little things.
I am huge and I use the Jenneva bra that gives you support without the wire. When you get really busty, wire bras are very painful. I’m glad I read this article, I had know Idea that bras could be linked to breast cancer.
what is your source for this brand? google returns nothing about this bra.
Oops! I didn’t get the brand name right the first time. The bra that I use is called “Beauty by Jeunigue”. It gives you the lift and the comfort that you need without the wire . It also makes you look like you have lost 10 to 15 pounds by wearing it. It is also works well for breast feeding moms. You might be able to order it online, but I can be wrong. You will need a fitting so that you can get the right size that fits you. I am Huge (DDF) and these are the only bras that I found that are comfortable and fits correctly. Also I am pregnant and the lactation stores do not sell any bra size larger than a H cup, which don’t fit my body anyway. I got mine through a lady that sells these bras for a living (her business is like may-kay make-up, only she sells bras instead). Hopefully you can find the nearest sells rep. near where you live. Hope this helps!! Let me know if you have anymore questions.
Also these bras are expensive, but they are so worth it. The bigger you are the more expensive the bra is. I will have to buy new bra when my milk comes in.
Great article I didn’t know about the bra and after reading it I have just ditched the bra. I have 5 kids and nursed them all the last 2 were twins I hope that helps a little to prevent breast cancer. I agree with another reader we own it to ourself and our children to get educated and stop with the fashion I have read that coloring your hair is also associated with breast cancer.
Interesting about the bras, but did they correct for breat size? People with larger breasts would be more likely to wear bras, and the increased risk of cancer could be due to larger breast size.
True, but even in cultures where women are busty, they have the same breast cancer rates as men if they aren’t eating processed foods and wearing constricting clothing.
I ditched the bra about six months ago and haven’t looked back. I have already had bilateral breast cancer and do not care to have another go round. Haven’t tried the Coobie bras, but do use a product called Bust Free to deal with the ‘obviously braless’ aspect. Has been working fine.
Melissa Jean Shirley
You have DD and use these bras? I’m hesitant to believe that my DDs wouldn’t swing around or flop right out of one of those. What are your thoughts on sports bras? I’m an HIIT instructor, and practically live in sports bras….
It took a little adjustment to get used to them not being “pushed-up” like Victoria’s secret used to do, but these bras do support them. When I’m not nursing, I find they actually fit better without the pads. For exercise, I wear them without a problem, or have also added a support tank or worn two if I was doing a lot of running…
I have to admit I am skeptical, they don’t look supportive at all! Do they just squish you, or actually support and hold things up (not pushed up, but I don’t want my bra just sitting on top of my breasts, if you know what I mean)? My baby is 4 mo. old and I still haven’t found a bra in my size that I’m happy with. Right now I wear something that looks like a coobie but I got it at Target. It’s comfortable, but I don’t like the thin material and it does nothing to support me; just covers them. I did my measurements yesterday and found out I should wear a 30G or GG. I may give this bra a try!
Try the “Beauty by jeunique” bra. I’m a double F and they are the only bra that I can find that fits comfortably and can be used as a nursing bra. It is wireless and it gives you lift, but won’t constrict the flow of you milk.
I don’t wear a bra and am a 38c. I nurse my daughter and I like to run. I really don’t care what it looks like to others. I care more about getting my exercise.
I have a question about exercising braless. I have recently decided (since last summer) to go braless. But I still wear a sports bra for martial arts only (I am a C cup).. But when I do stretching, lifting weights etc…is a bra really necessary? What is your experience with this?
You did an excellent job at covering a very controversial topic. I hope and pray women begin looking at this research seriously. We owe it to ourselves, our children, our husbands and our entire ecosystem. So proud of you! 🙂
Cindy Drugan Dolezal
Great article. Gonna go home and burn my bras!! I love the comment about nipples under t-shirts. Haha. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t ever wear a bra.