There are two main risk factors that increase your risk for breast cancer: being a woman and getting older. Your risk for breast cancer increases as you age. It’s rare for young women to develop breast cancer, but it can happen. Fewer than 5% of breast cancer occurs in women under the age of 40.
While the risk for a young woman to develop breast cancer is low, it is not zero. There are things that you can do as a young woman to reduce your risk for breast cancer and to stay ahead of the disease.
Eat a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for everyone. Staying at a normal weight improves your overall health, and it can lower your risk for breast cancer. Being overweight is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, especially after menopause.
It’s not just how much you eat, though. The type of food that you eat matters, too. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and reduce the amount of foods that are high in fat and added sugar as well as the highly processed foods that you eat.
Regular physical activity helps you manage a healthy weight, which decreases breast cancer risk. It also helps reduce stress levels, and women who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day are at a lower risk for developing breast cancer.
Do not smoke
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and preventable death. Tobacco use also increases your risk for breast cancer. Don’t start smoking, or stop smoking to lower your cancer risk.
Limit alcohol consumption
If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. This means no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women. Even low levels of alcohol consumption can increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
Be aware of your body
It is important to be aware of your body and routinely feel your breasts to know what they feel like. If you feel a new lump in your breast, make an appointment with your gynecologist or doctor for a clinical breast exam soon. There are many things that cause breast pain or discomfort. Although it is likely not cancer, it is important to talk do your doctor about any abnormalities in your breasts.
Learn your personal risk for breast cancer
It’s never too early to start being proactive with your health. While most breast cancers develop after the age of 40, the decisions that you make now influence your health later in life.
Talk to your family and your relatives to get a better sense of your family health history. While most breast cancers are not hereditary, between five and 10 percent of women with breast cancer have a hereditary form of the disease.
The Breast Center offers a Genetics Hereditary Cancer Quiz that can help women learn more about their personal risk for breast cancer.
You can also schedule a personalized Risk Assessment Appointment with a breast health specialist.
Speaking with a breast health specialist goes a long way in helping young women stay ahead of breast cancer. Learning your personal risk for breast cancer helps you make the best decisions for your health, including when and how often you should start screening for breast cancer.