Ask the Expert: How Can People Reduce Their Risk of Breast Cancer?

This article is part of Breast Cancer and Black Women, a destination in our Health Divide series.

Dr. Doru Paul Ask the Expert

Design by Julie Bang / Verywell

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer worldwide, followed by lung cancer and colon cancer. With such a high prevalence, is it possible for an individual to lower their odds of developing it?

Doru Paul, M.D., Ph.D., an oncologist who focuses on individualizing care and improving the prognosis of cancer treatments, tells Verywell Health that people can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by making certain lifestyle changes. And the younger they start, the better.

Verywell Health: What can people do to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer?

Dr. Paul: The four general principles are: exercise, good nutrition, decreasing stress, and good sleep. By focusing on these things, you’re preventing not only breast cancer, but other types of cancer.

Verywell Health: How early in life should someone implement these steps to reduce breast cancer risk? 

Dr. Paul: The development of breast cancer takes between 10 and 20 years; it’s not a condition that will develop overnight. Risk reduction should start early in life.

About 90% of breast cancers develop in people above age 45. The majority are in postmenopausal women. But prevention should not start at age 50; prevention should start well before that.

Verywell Health: Do these tips work better for some people than others?

Dr. Paul: Definitely. Certain genes, like BRCA genes, predispose people to breast cancer, so it’s important to know your risk. Everybody is becoming more aware now because of popular culture. Angelina Jolie had a BRCA gene inherited from her mother, and she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy and also an oophorectomy as a result. It should be emphasized, though, that considering similar options would be a case-by-case, personal decision.

Verywell Health: For people who have genes that put them at an increased risk of breast cancer, do you recommend the same four things?

Dr. Paul: Yes, 100%. Exercise, nutrition, keeping stress at bay, and good sleep matter to everyone, including patients with increased risk of breast cancer. In fact, it may matter for them even more.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. Cancer.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breast cancer in young women.