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What can I do to reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Explore ways you can reduce your risk of breast cancer.

March 08, 2024
Healthcare provider touching the shoulder of a patient.

Breast cancer is a terrible disease that, according to will strike one of eight American women, nearly a quarter-million every year. It’s the second-most-common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in women, so preventing and treating breast cancer is certainly a worthy challenge for any healthcare system to take on.

While there is no magic answer yet to make breast cancer go away, the latest research suggests that there are a variety of lifestyle choices to consider that may reduce your chances of developing breast cancer:

  • Alcohol. As much as one alcoholic drink per day may increase your chances of developing breast cancer.
  • Smoking. Cigarettes aren’t just bad for your lungs, they’re bad for your breasts, too.
  • Extra weight. Obesity contributes to cancer development, especially after menopause.
  • Exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. This helps maintain a healthy weight, too.
  • Breastfeeding. Recent studies suggest that the longer you breastfeed, the lower your chances of developing breast cancer.
  • Hormone therapies. Studies are finding a link to prolonged hormone therapy and breast cancer. If you’ve been taking hormone therapy for more than three years, consider asking your doctor about other options.
  • High-dose radiation. There may be a link between breast cancer and radiation exposure. Try to avoid medical tests that require radiation that aren’t truly necessary.

Even if you make the healthiest lifestyle choices, regular screening is vital for early breast-cancer detection. Survival rates have been steadily rising since the 1990s, and early detection has been part of this. Some screenings that can help catch breast cancer early are:

  • Self-exams. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends monthly self-exams. Self-exams lead to an estimated 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers.
  • Breast screenings. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast used to find very small tumors or abnormal cells that can develop into cancer.
  • Clinical breast exams (CBEs). Your healthcare provider examines the breast and the underarm areas to check for lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Women with a high risk of breast cancer may be screened using an MRI, which uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to create detailed images of the breast and surrounding areas.

Women ages 29-39 should have a clinical breast exam conducted every three years. Women over 40 years old should have a mammogram and clinical breast exam conducted annually.

When should you start breast cancer screenings?

The answer may vary. Use our online assessment to gain insight and determine breast cancer health risk factors.

Take Our Breast Cancer Health Risk Assessment

March 08, 2024

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