The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy lifestyle choices

Healthy lifestyle choices are linked to a lower risk of some cancers and other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Although not all the behaviors listed below are linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, they are good for overall health.*

Everyone should aim to:

  • Be physically active (get regular exercise).
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (People diagnosed with breast cancer who are overweight or obese should limit high-calorie foods and beverages and increase physical activity to help with weight loss.)
  • Eat at least 2½-3 cups of vegetables and 1½-2 cups of fruit every day. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. Include dark green, red and orange vegetables as well as legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas and soy foods.
  • Choose 100% whole grain foods such as 100% whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa.
  • Eat “good” fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). These are found in foods such as olive and avocado oil, nuts and natural nut butters, olives and avocados.
  • Limit or avoid red meat and processed meat, such as beef, bacon and sausage. Choose chicken, fish or beans more often for good sources of protein.
  • Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Choose water or unsweetened beverages more often.
  • Limit or avoid highly processed foods and refined grain products, such as fast food, ready-to-heat foods, packaged snack foods and candy.
  • Avoid alcohol. For those who choose to drink alcohol, limit to less than 1 drink a day for women and fewer than 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Quit smoking (or never start smoking).

Adapted from the American Cancer Society’s Diet and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and the American Cancer Society/American Society of Clinical Oncology Breast Cancer Survivorship Care Guideline [27,321,358].

* Being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and to a lesser degree, eating fruits and vegetables and not smoking are linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. Other guidelines are good for your overall health and may be linked to a lower risk of other types of cancer.

A registered dietitian may use the term “nutrient density” when discussing diet. This is the balance of nutrients and calories in the foods and beverages you eat and drink. Nutrient dense foods have vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, with limited saturated fat, added sugars and salt.

Learn more about diet and breast cancer.

Learn about a healthy lifestyle and breast cancer survival.

Organic foods

According to the American Cancer Society’s Diet and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention, research shows organic foods are no more nutritious or better for you than foods farmed by conventional methods [27].

Some people prefer to eat organic foods. However, people who eat organic meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables do not appear to have a lower risk of breast cancer than people who don’t eat organic foods [27,359].

Organic meat and dairy

Scientific evidence doesn’t show a link between the growth hormones or the antibiotics used in conventional animal farming and breast cancer [27].

Learn more about meat and breast cancer risk.  

Learn more about dairy and breast cancer risk.

Organic fruits and vegetables

Organic plants are grown without the use of conventional pesticides. Conventional fruits and vegetables may have low levels of pesticide residue.

According to the American Cancer Society, the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh any health risks linked with pesticide residue [27].

Fruits and vegetables (both organic and conventional) are part of a healthy diet. Buying fresh (or frozen) conventional produce and thoroughly washing and rinsing it before eating is always a good practice [27].

Learn more about fruits and vegetables and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about pesticides and breast cancer risk.

It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle

Everyone can benefit from a healthy lifestyle.

Being active, eating a balanced diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.

Breast cancer screening

Getting regular screening tests (and treatment, if diagnosed) lowers the risk of dying from breast cancer. Screening tests can find breast cancer at an early stage, when the chances for survival are highest.

Learn more about breast cancer screening



1. Know your risk

2. Get screened

* Per NCCN Guidelines

3. Know what is normal for you

See a health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

To see illustrations of these warning signs, please visit the Warning Signs of Breast Cancer page.

4. Make healthy lifestyle choices

Download our Breast Self-Awareness Messages resource for more information.

Updated 04/26/24