There are certain risk factors for breast cancer that cannot be modified, such as genetic predisposition. However, there are some lifestyle modifications which can be helpful to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
Maintain a healthy weight
You may have heard this several times in several different ways, but the fact remains – a healthy weight is an important goal for all. Being overweight increases the risk of many cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
Be physically active and eat well
This is related to the above idea of maintaining a healthy weight, as exercise is one of the best ways to keep weight in check – but it has its own benefits. Women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a far lower risk of breast cancer. A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables has also been shown to reduce breast cancer risk.
We all know that smoking causes lung cancer, but studies have shown that it also increases the risk of at least 14 other cancers, including breast cancer. In addition to this, smoking lowers quality of life while increasing risk of heart disease and stroke.
Breastfeed, if possible
Breastfeeding for a total of at least one year has been shown to have protective effects against breast cancer. It also offers many health benefits for the child.
Avoid too much alcohol
“Everything in moderation” is the saying – and in this case, it definitely rings true. The upper limit for alcohol consumption should be one drink a day or less. Even low levels of intake can increase breast cancer risk.
Avoid birth control pills after age 35 (or if you smoke)
Birth control pills have been studied for years, and have been shown to have both risks and benefits. In younger women, the risks are far lower. However, while taking birth control pills, there will be a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This risk will quickly go away after stopping the pill. Long-term use of the pill may have important benefits though, such as lowered risk of ovarian, colon, and uterine cancer (in addition to the obvious; prevention of unwanted pregnancy).
Find out your family history
Women with a strong family history of cancer can take steps to protect themselves, so it’s important for know your family history. Your breast cancer risk may be higher if you have an immediate family member who developed breast cancer, such as a mother or a sister, or if you have multiple family members who have developed breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer. You can talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor to help you understand your family history.
Studies have shown that mammograms save lives. They are not a preventative measure, but they can detect the cancer sooner. Breast cancer is more treatable and has a better prognosis when it is detected in the early stages. Ask your doctor about mammography recommendations, which will depend on your age and overall risk.
Information taken from Siteman Cancer Center.