The benefits of living a healthy, active lifestyle are apparent.

Not only do you look good, but your body feels good. Making healthy choices gives you an abundant source of energy, and this energy allows you to seize the day, every day. However, now there’s another even more significant benefit to living healthy: it prevents breast cancer.

Unfortunately, breast cancer is a disease which can be linked to certain genes. Individuals carrying one or more of these genes are much more likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not. However, a recent study identified four healthy habits as pillars of breast cancer prevention: maintaining a low BMI, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, and forgoing hormone therapy after entering menopause. These healthy habits can significantly help women predisposed to develop the disease avoid it altogether.

In the study, published by JAMA Oncology, researchers collected data from the records of women who’s genetic makeup includes various genes linked to breast cancer. Researchers also examined other factors such as family history, reproductive health, lifestyle factors, anthropometric factors, and SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) into the model. They used the combination of this data to create a model that predicts a woman’s absolute risk of developing breast cancer. It should be noted that the study primarily looked at white women in the US.

Regardless of lifestyle factors, it was found that 11.3% of white women in their 30’s are at an absolute risk of developing breast cancer before age 80. Although this may sound disheartening, the study also found that by maintaining the four healthy habits listed above, 30% of breast cancer cases could be avoided. That’s a big number.

Additionally, the study found that for women whose genes placed them in the highest category of risk, adopting these 4 habits has the greatest benefit. These habits could reduce their risk to a level comparable to that of an average individual:

“Results from these analyses could have implications for future cancer prevention efforts, particularly for risk communication and counseling at an individual level. For instance, women found to be at elevated risk owing to factors that cannot be changed may be more motivated to adopt a healthy lifestyle to lower their risk of breast cancer if they had a better understanding of the potential gains. Therefore, if any woman decides to adhere to these 4 habits, her risk is no greater than anyone else’s when it comes to developing breast cancer.” -JAMA Oncology. 

Regardless of your risk, consider making these habits a priority in your life. Also, be sure to share this information with the women in your life and support them in these habits. It could make all the difference.