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Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer
A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem. Some of these, such as family history or genetics, cannot be changed. Luckily, many can be.
General Guidelines for All Women
Tobacco is harmful to the whole body. The risk of many cancers (not just breast cancer) are higher in women who smoke.
Quitting smoking is a big step in lowering your chances of breast and other cancers. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. Talk to your doctor about the best ways for you to quit.
Drink in Moderation
Alcohol may cause estrogen levels to rise. This can make the risk of certain types of breast cancer higher. If you drink, you can lower your risk by having 1 drink or less a day.
Eat a Healthful Diet
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep your body strong. This one of the best tools against breast cancer. Lower your intake of red meat by eating more chicken or fish.
Exercise is good for well-being and keeping a healthy weight. Physical activity has been shown to lower breast cancer risk in women of any age. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise (like brisk walking) a week. If you are not active, talk to your doctor about how to get started on a program safely.
Limit Exposure to Estrogen When Possible
High levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer. For older women, estrogen comes from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used after menopause. Your doctor will talk to you about the risks of using HRT before the drugs are started.
General Guidelines for Women at High Risk
Some women have a higher risk of breast cancer:
- Age over 60 years
- Age over 35 years and history of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
- Problems with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or strong family history
- History of breast biopsies with results that were not normal
- Prior breast cancer
You may also need:
Your doctor may test for problems with your genes if there is a strong link to breast cancer in your family. Women who carry certain genes are at very high risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
Surgery to remove both breasts may be a choice for women who are at very high risk for breast cancer. This is not a fool-proof method and does carry some risk. Other prevention choices may work better for you.
BRCA mutation testing and management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115902/BRCA-mutation-testing-and-management. Updated October 31, 2016. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Breast cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/breast-disorders/breast-cancer. Updated May 2016. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Breast cancer prevention (PDQ). National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-prevention-pdq. Updated February 26, 2019. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Breast cancer risk and prevention. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention.html. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Chemoprevention of breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115563/Chemoprevention-of-breast-cancer. Updated August 7, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2019.
Risk factors for breast cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T901178/Risk-factors-for-breast-cancer. Updated June 1, 2018. Accessed March 11, 2019.
1/28/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113654/Breast-cancer-in-women: Lostumbo L, Carbine N, Wallace J. Prophylactic mastectomy for the prevention of breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(11):CD002748.
6/24/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T901178/Risk-factors-for-breast-cancer: Farvid MS, Cho E, Cchen WY, Eliassen AH, Willett WC. Dietary protein sources in early adulthoood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2014;348:g3437.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 12/2018
- Update Date: 03/11/2019