Family Health Clinic
Breast cancer prevention
If you're concerned about developing breast cancer, you might be wondering if there are steps you can take to help prevent breast cancer. 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?
Research shows that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of breast cancer, even in women at high risk. To lower your risk:
- Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater 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 risk.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain that weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
- Be physically active. 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 of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
- Breastfeed. Breastfeeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect.
- Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy. You might be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies and medications. 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 have your doctor monitor the length of time you're taking hormones.
What else can I do?
Be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings based on your personal history.