Certain lifestyle changes may help you manage your cancer and are important for overall quality of health.

General Guidelines

Limit Exposure to Estrogen When Possible

High levels of estrogen have been linked to the development of breast cancer. For older women, the greatest exposure to estrogen is via postmenopausal hormone replacement. Estrogen replacement has been shown to reduce the onset of osteoporosis , as well as reduce numerous side effects associated with menopause . It has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of colon cancer. Therefore, you should have a frank conversation with your doctor as to the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement relative to breast cancer.

There is debate about the effects of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen compounds), such as soy in the management of breast cancer. Do not take any herbal remedies or natural supplements without discussing them first with your doctor. If you include a large amount of soy (tofu, soymilk, etc) in your diet, discuss with your doctor whether you should consider limiting your consumption of these foods.

Other lifestyle factors may also increase your exposure to estrogen. If possible, try to limit these factors:

  • Being overweight after the age of menopause
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Physical inactivity

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight—particularly after menopause—may increase your chances of developing breast cancer. This is due to the fact that after menopause, most of the estrogen in a woman’s body comes from her fat tissue. The more fat on the body, the higher the degree of estrogen.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Studies have shown that women who drink 2-4 alcoholic drinks daily have a 40% greater risk of developing breast cancer than nondrinkers. This might be due to the fact that alcohol can alter the way a woman's body metabolizes estrogen. This may cause blood estrogen levels to rise, increasing the risk of breast cancer onset.

Avoid Tobacco Products

Smoking increases your risk of several cancers, including breast cancer.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise helps maintain weight and modulates high levels of estrogen. It's favorable effects on the immune system may inhibit cancer growth. Overall, exercise has many benefits. For example, a study found that participating in physical training program with or without the addition of cognitive behavioral therapy improved patients' quality of life. Talk to your doctor about an exercise routine that is right for you. If you are interested in working with a therapist, your doctor can give you a referral.