Breast cancer risk and prevention
At this time, there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But you can make healthy choices that help lower your risk. If you're at high risk for breast cancer, your doctor may talk to you about ways to lower your risk, such as taking hormone therapy or having surgery to remove your breast. Based on your risk, your doctor will recommend a screening schedule for you. Your doctor may also talk with you about genetic testing.
What increases your risk of breast cancer?
The top risk factors for breast cancer are 1) aging — your risk increases as you get older; and 2) being female, as most breast cancer is found in women. Other risks include:
- Health history — Having dense breasts, a breast disease that isn't cancer, or previous breast cancer increases your risk.
- Family history — Your risk increases if you have a history of breast cancer in your family.
- Race — White women have a higher risk than Black, Hispanic or Asian women.
- Hormones — Female hormones play a part in some types of breast cancer.
What can you do to reduce the risk of breast cancer?
Some things that increase your risk of breast cancer, such as your age and gender, cannot be controlled. But you can do some things to stay as healthy as you can. These choices include:
- Staying at a healthy weight.
- Eating a healthy, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Getting plenty of physical activity.
- If you drink alcohol, limiting how much you drink. Any amount of alcohol may increase your risk for some types of cancer.
- Don’t smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.
- Breastfeed. There is some evidence that breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast cancer. The benefit seems to be greatest in women who have breastfed for longer than 12 months or who breastfed several children.
Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older. There is no known way to prevent breast cancer. But with some cancers, finding them early can increase your chances of successful treatment. Here are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk:
- Get familiar with the look and feel of your breasts. This will help you notice any changes. Call your doctor’s office if you notice a change.
- Have regular breast exams by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider how often you should get them.
- Have regular mammograms — A mammogram can find changes in your breast before you can feel them. Talk to your doctor about when to get this test.
- If you're at high risk for breast cancer, your doctor may talk to you about ways to lower your risk, such as taking hormone therapy or having surgery to remove your breast. Based on your risk, your doctor will recommend a screening schedule for you. Your doctor may also talk with you about genetic testing.