17 Jan Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention
There is no absolute way to prevent breast cancer, but there are steps you can take that may lower your risk, such as changing risk factors that are under your control.
Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits, such as limiting alcohol consumption and staying physically active. Understand what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.
If you’re concerned about breast cancer, you may be wondering if there are steps you can take to prevent it. Some risk factors, like family history, cannot be changed. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk.
What can I do to reduce the risk of breast cancer?
Research shows that lifestyle changes can lower the risk of cancer, even in high-risk women. To reduce risk:
- Limit alcohol consumption. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation, based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk, is to limit yourself to no more than one drink a day, as even small amounts increase your risk.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are at a healthy weight, maintain it. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to achieve it. Reduce the number of calories you consume each day and slowly increase the amount of physical activity.
- Do physical activity. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, plus strength training at least twice a week.
- Breastfeed. Breastfeeding could play a role in the prevention of breast cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect.
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combined hormone therapy may increase the risk of cancer. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy. You may be able to control symptoms with non-hormonal medications and therapies. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you and continue to monitor how long you’ve been taking hormones with your doctor.
Can a healthy diet prevent breast cancer?
Eating a healthy diet may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For example, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a lower risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses primarily on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil instead of butter, and eat fish instead of red meat.
Maintaining a healthy weight is also a key factor in preventing cancer.
Is there a relationship between birth control pills and breast cancer?
There is some evidence that hormonal contraception, which includes birth control pills and hormone-releasing IUDs, increases the risk of breast cancer. But the risk is considered very small and decreases after you stop using hormonal birth control.
A recent study showing an association between hormonal contraceptive use and breast cancer found that one additional breast cancer can be expected for every 7,690 women who use hormonal contraceptives for at least one year.
Discuss your birth control options with your doctor. It also considers the benefits of hormonal contraception, such as controlling menstrual bleeding, preventing unwanted pregnancy, and reducing the risk of other types of cancer, including endometrial and ovarian cancer.
What else can I do?
Pay attention to cancer screening. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a lump or skin changes, see your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when you should start getting mammograms and other screening tests based on your personal history.
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