Byline: BY MADELEINE BAILEY
THE most common cancer among UK women, breast cancer affects one in nine in a lifetime and kills more than 12,000 women a year. Striking at a symbol of their femininity, it's no wonder that it is the disease women dread most.
But while you can't change all risk factors, like age or genes, diet and lifestyle make a big difference - and they're totally within your control. In fact research suggests that half of all cancers could be prevented with lifestyle changes.
Follow these simple steps and you'll be on your way to lowering your risk by the end of this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Take a stroll at lunchtime
NATURAL sunlight will increase your stores of vitamin D, which research suggests may lower your risk of breast cancer. UV light is our main source of the "sunshine vitamin", although it's also present in dairy products and fish oils.
Experts recommend spending at least 15 minutes outside every day. If you use moisturiser with a sun protection factor (SPF), don't put it on until just before you leave the house.
Although it stops the skin absorbing UV rays, it takes around 15 minutes to start working, so you'll have a 15-minute blast of sunlight on your face before it becomes effective.
Get an espresso buzz
FOUR cups of coffee a day could reduce your breast cancer risk by as much as 40 per cent, according to a recent US study. However, coffee didn't affect the risk for older women.
Do your sums
THE fatter you are, the greater your risk because fat tissue increases levels of the hormone oestrogen circulating in the blood - a known risk factor for breast cancer.
A US study of more than 87,000 women revealed that women who gained 55lbs or more after the age of 18 had a 45 per cent increased risk of the disease compared with those who maintained their weight. The website www.weightlossresources.co.uk is useful for anyone wanting to lose those pounds.
Try some TLC
THAT stands for Touch, Look and Check out anything unusual with your doctor.
According to charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the secret is to get to know your breasts so you can quickly spot suspicious changes. Most breast cancers are detected by women themselves and the earlier they're found, the more curable they are.
But remember, you're not just looking for lumps. See your GP if you notice changes in the size or shape of the breast or nipple, an unusual rash, discharge, puckering, swelling under your armpit or around your collarbone, or pain in your breast or armpit.
In most cases, these changes won't be due to cancer.
Join a salsa class
A US study on postmenopausal women found that within three months of taking up regular moderate exercise, excess levels of oestrogen in their blood - a known risk factor - had fallen by a sixth. Our own
Department of Health recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Moderate exercise could include brisk walking, cycling to work, swimming, dancing or working-out to a video. It doesn't all have to be in one go either, splitting it into two sets of 15-minute sessions could make it more manageable.
Breastfeed your baby
IF you've recently given birth, consider breastfeeding for a year - it will cut your breast cancer risk by almost five per cent.
According to Cancer Research UK, if mothers breastfed each of their children for an extra six months, there would be 1,000 fewer cases of breast cancer a year in Britain.
Do a risk assessment
KNOWLEDGE is power when it …