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Get to Know Your Breasts

If your partner knows your rack better than you do, it's time for a quick reintroduction

What they are: Fat and connective tissue surrounding 15 to 20 lobules that, when lactating, produce milk through 6 to 10 ducts
What they do: Nourish infants; fill out a halter top
Why they're important: Breasts are the second most common site of cancer (after skin) in American women.

A little off-kilter?

Totally normal. On average, one breast (usually the left) is larger than the other. --Annals of Plastic Surgery

Are Your Breasts Trying to Tell You Something?

Common signals include:

Discharge

Fluid from the nipple in women who aren't breast-feeding can be the result of infection or a side effect of certain medications. See your doctor to determine the cause.

Lumps

Yes, they could be cancer, but most aren't. Lumpiness can be the result of extra fluid in the breasts around the time of your period, growth of milk glands during pregnancy, or fat loss during menopause. Still, it's best to have any lump you find examined by a doctor.

Tenderness

Hormonal ebbs and flows can cause pain around your period, or as you approach menopause. (Some women report that cutting back on caffeine helps.) If you're breast-feeding, pain and redness can point to mastitis, an infection in the milk duct.

3 Ways to Care For Your Pair

Like you, they appreciate good food and exercise

1. Go Native

In a study of dietary patterns at the University of Utah, a so-called "Native Mexican" diet rich in beans, spices, and tomato-based sauces was associated with a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than a typical Western diet.

2. Think Small

"Our studies show that in overweight women, losing 5 percent of their starting weight can reduce risk factors for breast cancer by lowering their levels of insulin, estrogen, and testosterone," says Anne McTiernan, M.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

3. Limit Toxins

The link between contaminants and breast cancer isn't fully understood. But Swedish research showed that older women with the highest exposure to cadmium, a carcinogen that gets into food via fertilizers, had a 21 percent greater risk of getting the disease than those with the least exposure did. Fruits and veggies help offset toxins' effects.

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