How to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

The highest risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer is being a woman. The second highest risk is age. The older you become, the higher your risk goes up. There are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of getting the disease and help find the disease early.

Each woman has her own set of risk factors. Each woman can create her own plan with her clinician to lower her risk of getting the disease. For men who are at risk, this is also true.

Steps to Reduce Risk

  • At the age of 20, being familiar with one's breasts is important. Checking your breasts seven to 10 days after your menstrual cycle starts is best. For post-menopausal women, check your breasts at the same time each month.
  • Have a yearly breast exam from a qualified practitioner every year between the ages of 35 and 40.
  • Follow the recommended guidelines for mammograms.
  • Exercise regularly and eat healthy.

Weight, Exercise and Breast Cancer Risk

Being overweight or obese raises the risk of breast cancer. This is very important after menopause. Excess fat can increase the body's estrogen levels. It is also the main source of estrogen after menopause. Estrogen can cause the growth of breast cancer cells.

Women who are obese after menopause are 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Gaining more than 22 pounds after menopause raises the risk of breast cancer by 18 percent.

To find out if you are overweight, calculate your body mass index (BMI). BMI is based on your height and weight. Your BMI should be between 18 and 24.9. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. If your BMI is higher than 30, you are considered obese.

Exercise and weight loss can help women who are overweight or obese lower their risk of breast cancer. Obese women who are able to lose at least 22 pounds after menopause can lower their breast cancer risk by 57 percent.

Talk with your clinician if you have questions about your ideal body weight and your BMI. Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise plan or diet to find out what plan is best for you.

Diet and Breast Cancer Risk

Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day may lower your breast cancer risk. The natural vitamin antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of cancer slightly. You should also eat foods that are low in saturated fat.

Taking vitamin supplements does not seem to lower the risk of cancer. This includes vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Diet and breast cancer risk

Unproven Strategies

The link between eating foods containing soy and breast cancer risk is not proven. Green tea might reduce breast cancer risk, but this has not been proven.

We recommend you eat moderate amounts of a variety of foods to maintain a healthy weight. You should limit the amount of alcohol you drink. For more information on eating healthy, talk your doctor and follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk

Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage a day may increase the risk of breast cancer. This risk grows with the amount of alcohol consumed. One drink is defined as 10 grams of alcohol, which typically means one of the following:

  • Twelve-ounce beer
  • Four-ounce glass of wine
  • Shot (1.25 ounces) of hard liquor or spirits

With each drink you consume in excess of seven per week, your risk may increase. Women who drink more than seven drinks a week can lower their risk by lowering their alcohol intake.