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Scary Habits That Could Increase Breast Cancer Risk

  • Health & Wellness


The beginning of October can mean different things to many people, but most of us would probably just inhale an imaginary pumpkin scent in the air and get really excited because yes, Halloween is just around the corner! While the entirety of 2020 has been more terrifying than any horror movie we could have ever imagined, this month is when spooky season officially starts – so get ready for ghosts, vampires, jack-o’-lanterns, and breast cancer.

Yes, you read that last part right! Apart from all the other seemingly scary things we associate with October, it’s also the month for Breast Cancer Awareness. Getting spooked by anything concerning The Big C is definitely a normal reaction, but that’s exactly why we can use these next few weeks to be vigilant and know more about the very real prospect of breast cancer.

Like most diseases, there are certain factors we can’t control, but there are also many things we can do to help lower our risk of breast cancer. (1) One of those things is to figure out what we’re doing wrong. What are some everyday habits that might be increasing our risk? The answers might be scarier than entering a haunted house, but again, now is the time to face them and find out!


1. Embracing the couch potato lifestyle


Being one with the couch is probably the easiest thing to do these days, especially with lockdowns still in effect. While everyone tries hard to stay at home, we’re mostly juggling some variation of work and Netflix, making it harder to get up, move around, and actually get some exercise. But the next time you want to choose lazing around over working out, remember that this kind of sedentary lifestyle is the exact opposite of what to do to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Regular physical activity has been linked to regulating hormones and body weight, both of which are also key factors in breast health.(2) So it doesn’t matter if it’s at your desk, couch, or bed – if sitting around is the only thing you’re doing all day, you might be increasing your chances of getting breast cancer, among other complicated medical conditions.(3) Experts recommend getting 45-60 minutes of exercise for at least 5 days a week(4), so don’t let that couch win!


2. Eating like you’re in a mukbang


Watching other people eat crazy amounts of food in what we now know as “mukbang” videos is a fun and fascinating trend, as long as it doesn’t resemble what your normal, everyday, off-camera diet is like. If extreme eating is your thing, that could lead to too much weight gain or obesity, which could increase the risk of breast cancer.(2) Being overweight could also lead to increased levels of hormones that have been linked to breast cancer, like insulin and estrogen.(5)

It’s okay to treat yourself, but try to avoid making a habit of indulging in too much junk food. A balanced diet is always key to maintaining a healthy weight, so just leave the overeating to your favorite mukbang vloggers.


3. Celebrating wine o’clock everyday


Wine, beer, liquor… or how about some soju? We all know how much fun making these “pour” decisions can be, but knowing that alcohol increases the breast cancer risk might just be enough to sober us up. Studies have shown that alcohol can raise estrogen levels and even damage DNA, leading to a higher likelihood of getting breast cancer.(6) Even a small amount could mean a lot – compared to women who don’t consume alcohol at all, the risk increases from around 7 to 10% in women who take just 1 alcoholic drink per day!(2) Those numbers sound a bit scary, so if your days in quarantine are marked by the wine o’clock habit, maybe it’s time to cut back and rethink your drinks!


4. Relying on your regular cigarette breaks


We’re all dealing with the craziness of this year in our own ways, and for some people, one of those stress relievers could be cigarettes. But then again, it’s common knowledge that tobacco products are carcinogenic, and for breast cancer in female smokers, the risk is estimated at an increase of 10%.(7) Research has also shown that younger smokers who haven’t experienced menopause yet are more at risk.(8) A smoking habit is definitely one of the hardest ones to break, but knowing the dangers involved might make it a tiny bit easier!


5. Popping (birth control) pills


These days, staying at home all day and night could also translate to more sexy time, which then leads to the need for the necessary birth control methods. Taking oral contraceptives is great for preventing unplanned pregnancy, but it turns out that the hormones in those pills could also give women a small risk of getting breast cancer.(9) But there might be some good news for your family planning needs – it also appears that this tiny risk gets much smaller, or even back to normal, in the years after stopping the pills.(2)


6. Working the night shift


Being in quarantine has turned our work hours upside-down, so it’s possible that our days and nights have started to feel interchangeable these past few months. But you might want to go back to your regular morning schedule when you find out that there is a link between night shift work and breast cancer risk! Research has suggested that exposure to light at night can suppress melatonin and increase estrogen, which could lead to breast cancer(7). For those who have the option to do so, try to stop working late at night and just set your alarm for an early workday instead.


So how many of these habits did you spot in your everyday life?

Don’t let the answer freak you out! Now that you know what’s not good for you, the next step is finding out how to change for the better and lower your chances of getting breast cancer. And if you need more help and information, you can always find out more from our community of Sheroes!



(1) Understanding Breast Cancer Risk and How to Lower It (2020). 

(2) Lifestyle-related Breast Cancer Risk Factors (2020).

(3) Get Moving to Help Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer (2018).

(4) Breast Cancer Risk Factors (2020).

(5) How Your Weight May Affect Your Risk of Breast Cancer (2018).

(6) Drinking Alcohol (2020).

(7) Influence of Lifestyle Factors on Breast Cancer Risk (2014).

(8) Smoking (2020).

(9) Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk (2018).

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AUTHOR BIO Live your breast life!

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