Breast Cancer: Reduce Your Risks

Nearly everyone knows someone touched by breast cancer. It’s a scary disease. But there is good news. Treatments are improving, and we are learning more than ever about ways to prevent breast cancer.

Some risk factors, such as family history, can't be changed, but there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risks.

Not every one applies to every woman, but together, they can make a difference.

Screening Saves Lives
Studies show that breast cancer screening with mammography saves lives. It doesn’t help prevent cancer, but it can help find cancer early, when it’s most treatable. For most women, regular mammograms can begin at age 40, but specific recommendations vary by age and risk.

Find Out Your Family History
You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age), or if you have multiple family members (including males) who developed breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. 

Be Physically Active
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which, in turn, helps prevent breast cancer. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.

Keep Weight in Check
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Eat Healthy and Avoid Too Much Alcohol
A healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and keep alcohol at moderate levels or lower (one drink a day or less). While moderate drinking can be good for the heart in older adults, even low levels of intake can increase the risk of breast cancer. 

Don't Smoke
Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

Breastfeed, If Possible
Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child.

Avoid Exposure to Radiation
Many medical-imaging methods use high doses of radiation. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and radiation exposure. Have such tests only when absolutely necessary.

For more information about lowering your risk of breast cancer, talk to your doctor. Do you need a doctor? Find one here.