5 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer
Breast cancer. Just reading those words can make many women worry. And that’s natural.
Nearly everyone knows someone touched by the disease.
But there is a lot of good news about breast cancer these days. Treatments keep getting better, and we know more than ever about ways to prevent the disease. These eight simple steps can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Not everyone applies to every woman, but together they can have a big impact.
- Keep Weight in Check
It’s easy to tune out because it gets said so often, but maintaining a healthy weight is an important goal for everyone. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.
- Be Physically Active
Exercise is as close to a silver bullet for good health as there is, and women who are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise is also one of the best ways to help keep weight in check.
- Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables – and Avoid Too Much Alcohol
A healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and keep alcohol at moderate levels or lower (a drink a day or under). While moderate drinking can be good for the heart in older adults, even low levels of intake can increase the risk of breast cancer. If you don’t drink, don’t feel you need to start. If you drink moderately, there’s likely no reason to stop. But, if you drink more, you should cut down or quit.
- Find Out Your Family History
Women with a strong family history of cancer can take special steps to protect themselves, so it’s important for women to know their family history. You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age) or if you have multiple
family members (including males) who developed breast, ovarian or prostate cancer. A doctor or genetic counselor can help you understand your family history of the disease.
- Don’t Forget Screening
Despite some controversy, studies show that breast cancer screening with mammography saves lives. It doesn’t help prevent cancer, but it can help find cancer early when it’s most treatable. For most women, regular mammograms can begin at age 40, but specific recommendations vary by age and risk.
If you are age 40 – 44:
You can choose to begin yearly mammograms. It is important to talk to a doctor about the risk and benefits of mammograms at these ages.
If you are age 45 – 54:
Mammograms are recommended every year.
If you are age 55 or over:
Mammograms are recommended every other year. You can choose to continue to have them every year.
Clinical breast exams and self-exams are not recommended. But you should be familiar with your breasts and tell a health care provider right away if you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel.