Preventing Breast Cancer

10 Ways to Lower Your Risk

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women aside from lung cancer. It is estimated that one in every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. While there are certain risk factors that can't be changed, such as genetics, studies have shown that certain lifestyle habits combined with other healthcare strategies can lower your risk.

Get Physical

Physical activity may reduce your risk of breast cancer. Studies by the Women's Health Initiative found that women who walked briskly one to two hours per week reduced breast cancer risk by 18%. Exercise doesn't always mean traditional gym exercises either. You can dance, chase your kids, play a sport—whatever gets your heart pumping.

Skip the Alcohol

Women who consume two to five drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk of breast cancer as women who don't consume alcohol. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who drink have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor).

Quit Smoking

Numerous studies have shown an association between smoking and the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as the risk of recurrence. Inhaling secondhand smoke is also believed to contribute to an increased risk. Smokefree.gov has lots of resources to help you quit.

Eat a Low-Fat Diet

A diet low in fat not only decreases the risk of obesity, but it can also reduce your risk of breast cancer. It's known that estrogen plays a major role in the development of breast cancer and that fat tissue contains small amounts of the hormone. Thus far, there is no definitive research about the effect of fat intake in general and breast cancer risk, but numerous studies have concluded that obesity plays a big part in breast cancer development.

Conceive Early

It's not always possible to plan when or if you get pregnant, but research has shown that having no biological children, or having your first child in your mid-30s or later, increases the risk for breast cancer.

Breastfeed

Researchers believe that the months without a period during pregnancy and breastfeeding may reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer. This accompanies the data that suggests that late onset menstruation and early menopause reduce risk as well, due to the smaller window of estrogen exposure over a lifetime.

Know Your Family History

Having a family or personal history of breast cancer increases your risk. If an immediate relative, such as your mother or sister, has had breast cancer, it is important to let your doctor know, as breast cancer can be genetic.

Genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as counseling, are available for those concerned about their risk. Keep in mind, however, that just because your mother or sister had breast cancer does not mean you will definitely develop the disease.

Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy

Studies have shown a connection between ​longtime hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and breast cancer. This link suggests that HRT with a combination of estrogen and progesterone raises risk. Five years after discontinuing HRT, the risk drops. If you need to take hormone replacement therapy, talk to your doctor about weighing the risks and benefits.

Examine Your Breasts Monthly

Checking your breasts every month may not reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, but it may help detect breast cancer early. The earlier breast cancer is found, the more treatable it is.

Get a Mammogram

Like the breast self-exam, a mammogram won't prevent the development of breast cancer, but it can detect cancer. Sometimes it can be difficult to feel a lump in the breast, and a mammogram is likely to detect any lumps that cannot be felt. For most women, an annual or biannual mammogram starting at age 40 is recommended.

A Word From Verywell

There is no way to guarantee you won't get breast cancer, but implementing the above strategies may help you avoid it. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to modify any unhealthy lifestyle habits you may have. They can also advise you on how often to get routine screening tests and whether you are a candidate for genetic testing.

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