Women's health (15)
- Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women
- Health issues for lesbians: Prevention first
- Vagina: What's normal, what's not
- see all in Women's health
Breast health (11)
- Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk
- Breast implants: Saline vs. silicone
- Breast lump: Early evaluation is essential
- see all in Breast health
Women's life stages (14)
- Fitness tips for menopause: Why fitness counts
- Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread
- Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off
- see all in Women's life stages
Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk
Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits — such as limiting alcohol and staying physically active. Understand what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk.By Mayo Clinic staff
If you're concerned about breast cancer, you may be wondering if there are steps you can take toward breast cancer prevention. Some risk factors, such as family history, can't be changed. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk.
What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?
Lifestyle changes have been shown in studies to decrease breast cancer risk even in high-risk women. The following are steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol — including beer, wine or liquor — limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
- Don't smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
- Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
- 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.
- Breast-feed. Breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
- Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you're taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You may be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies, such as physical activity. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation, which have been linked with breast cancer risk. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure to the chemicals found in some workplaces, gasoline fumes and vehicle exhaust.
Can a healthy diet prevent breast cancer?
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables hasn't been consistently shown to offer protection from breast cancer. In addition, a low-fat diet appears to offer only a slight reduction in the risk of breast cancer.
However, eating a healthy diet may decrease your risk of other types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight — a key factor in breast cancer prevention.Next page
(1 of 2)
- Kushi LH, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2006;56:254.
- Costanza ME, et al. Epidemiology and risk factors for breast cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 18, 2012.
- Chen WY, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk. JAMA. 2011;306:1884.
- AskMayoExpert. BRCA1 and BRCA2. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Prentice RL, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of invasive breast cancer: The Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled dietary modification trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2006;295:629.
- Eliassen AH, et al. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170:1758.
- Brinton LA, et al. Menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer risk in the NIH-AARP diet and health study cohort. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2008;17:3150.
- Questions and answers about the WHI postmenopausal hormone therapy trials. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/whi_faq.htm. Accessed Sept. 18, 2012.
- Kahlenborn C, et al. Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer: A meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2006;81:1290.
- Casey P, et al. Oral contraceptive use and the risk of breast cancer risk. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2008;83:86.
- Johnson KC, et al. Active smoking and secondhand smoke increase breast cancer risk: The report of the Canadian Expert Panel on Tobacco Smoke and Breast Cancer Risk (2009). Tobacco Control. 2011;20:e2.
- Brody JG, et al. Environmental pollutants and breast cancer. Cancer. 2007;109:2667.
- Boffeta P, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and overall cancer risk in the European investigation cancer and nutrition (EPIC). Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2010;102:529.
- Breast cancer and the environment: A life course approach. Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Breast-Cancer-and-the-Environment-A-Life-Course-Approach.aspx. Accessed Sept. 18, 2012.
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed Sept. 18, 2012.
- Fact sheet: Oral contraceptives and cancer risk. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/oral-contraceptives. Accessed Sept. 18, 2012.
- Petracci E, et al. Risk factor modification and projections of absolute breast cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2011;103:1037.
- Thomson CA. Diet and breast cancer: Understanding risks and benefits. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2012; 27:636.
- Romaguera D, et al. Is concordance with World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines for cancer prevention related to subsequent risk of cancer? Results from the EPIC study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;96:150.
- Chen WY. Postmenopausal hormone therapy and the risk of breast cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 20, 2012.
- Martin KA, et al. Risks and side effects associated with estrogen-progestin contraceptives. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 20, 2012.
- AskMayoExpert. Menopausal hormone therapy. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- AskMayoExpert. Mammogram screening guidelines. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.