Breast cancer cannot be prevented, and some of the factors that contribute to breast cancer are beyond your control. Being a woman, for example, is the single biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer. Getting older and having a family history of breast cancer also increase the risk for developing breast cancer. There are some factors that you do have control of, however. Being aware of these risk factors and making positive lifestyle choices can lower your risk for breast cancer.
Women who are overweight or obese – this means having a BMI over 25 – are at a higher risk for breast cancer than women at a healthy weight. Weight gain as an adult has also been linked with an increased risk for breast cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen, and higher estrogen levels can promote the growth of breast cancers.
Research shows that breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
A lack of exercise has been linked with an increased risk for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of the two each week.
Giving up smoking, or never starting is an easy way to decrease the risk for breast cancer and also help prevent COPD and lung cancer.
Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, can increase breast cancer risk. Women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk for breast cancer than women who do not drink alcohol at all.
Screening for breast cancer
Cancer can exist in the body without showing any physical signs or symptoms. Regular screening mammograms help save lives by detecting cancer in its early stages when it is too small or difficult to detect.
Women who are 40 or older should have annual screening mammograms.
While you may not be able to prevent breast cancer, making healthy choices can make your risk as low as possible. Talk to your primary care physician or meet with the specialists at The Breast Center to learn more about what you can do to decrease your risk for breast cancer.