Of the 52 million young women in the United States, 1 in 8 will be diagnosed with breast cancer—the leading cancer diagnosis in women—and 1 in 75 with ovarian cancer. But when detected early, the 5-year survival rate for these diseases is greater than 92 percent. In light of these odds, being proactive is critical. The good news is there are things we can do today to lay the groundwork for a healthy tomorrow.

Know your risk

Breast and ovarian cancer risk is determined by both family health history and lifestyle factors. At your next exam, initiate a conversation to help determine your risk level and work with your health care provider to develop a risk management plan that is right for you.

Knowing the normal look and feel of your body and monitoring it over time will help you recognize anything concerning or abnormal. If something doesn’t feel right, always speak up to your doctor.

Be proactive

Certain lifestyle factors can actually decrease your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Maintaining a healthy BMI and exercising regularly are key factors in reducing your breast cancer risk.

Other risk-reduction measures can include limiting fat intake, red meat and alcohol. When it comes to ovarian cancer, it is important to know that taking oral contraceptives for 5 years in your 20s and 30s can decrease risk by up to 50 percent—that is significant.

At this pivotal time, we all have the power to be proactive advocates for our own health, and that is something I hope all women find truly empowering.

30 minutes of exercise—enough to get your heart rate up or to break a sweat—on most days may reduce breast cancer risk by as much as 10-20 percent.

Vitamin D is known to help reduce the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells. Research shows a 2.5-times increase in breast cancer in individuals with a Vitamin D deficiency.

A clear link exists between obesity and breast cancer because of the excess estrogen produced by excess fatty tissue.

Smoking has so many negative effects on a woman’s health, including increased risk of ovarian cancer. If you smoke, commit to quit today.

Research shows a modest decrease in invasive breast cancer in women with a low-fat diet.

Taking oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, for 5 years in your 20s and 30s can reduce risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50 percent.

Research shows a 12 percent increase in breast cancer for every 50g of red meat consumed on average each day.

Studies have shown that women with first pregnancies under the age of 30 have up to a 50 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who give birth later in life or never at all. Pregnancy also reduces ovarian cancer risk because women are less likely to ovulate during pregnancy, giving ovarian cells less of a chance to go rogue.

Research shows a 10 percent increase in breast cancer for every 10g of alcohol (one standard drink) consumed on average each day. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day or, if possible, eliminate it entirely.

Breastfeeding for 1-2 years, not necessarily consecutively, lowers risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

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