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How to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Last Modified: February 22, 2024

Cancer, Safety & Prevention

cancer prevention

This post was written by Breck Hunnicutt, NP-C, CGRA, High Risk and Cancer Risk Reduction Clinic, Parkview Cancer Institute.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed approach to ensure the prevention of breast cancer, however, there are things you can do to decrease your risk of breast cancer. Let’s explore some of the modifiable lifestyle factors that can move the needle.

Seven steps for reducing your breast cancer risk

While some risk factors for breast cancer are not controllable, some lifestyle changes can lower your risk.

Limit alcohol intake. The safest thing to do is abstain from alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, limit it to one drink a day, or, even better, no more than 3 drinks a week. One drink consists of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Maintain a healthy weight. In general, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a healthy weight, however, not all individuals fit into this guideline and each person may have a different healthy BMI goal.  Speak with your primary healthcare provider for guidance.

Consume a healthy diet.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, incorporating them into every meal and snacks.
  • Reduce red meat and processed meat. Choose poultry or seafood more often or a plant-based protein, such as beans, nuts or lentils.
  • Choose whole grains and decrease processed carbohydrates, such as white bread, white flour and pastries.
  • Limit daily sugar and choose foods without added sugar. Other names for sugar found in many foods, are sucrose and fructose.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products without added sugar.

Increase physical activity and keep moving. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week, such as walking, biking, running or swimming. Strength training can be beneficial to increase metabolism with more muscle mass. There are many exercise ideas for all levels of ability, including chair yoga and other seated exercises. Read this post for tips on getting started.

Limit hormone therapy after menopause. Estrogen and progesterone hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer. The risks and benefits of taking hormones should be carefully considered with a medical professional before starting. Consideration of non-hormonal therapies may be appropriate to control symptoms. If hormone therapy is decided to be the most beneficial treatment, use the lowest dose which is appropriate for the shortest period needed. Estrogen-only hormone therapy in women with a hysterectomy may be appropriate and may not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Breastfeed. Breastfeeding may decrease the risk of breast cancer. If possible, consider nursing your little one.

Smoking cessation. There is some evidence smoking may increase the risk of breast cancer. Talk to your provider or explore smoking cessation options and products that might work for you.

Knowing your risk

Some risk factors are not controllable, including:

  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Dense breast tissue
  • A Hereditary Cancer Syndrome due to a genetic mutation
  • Previous radiation involving the chest

Consider consulting a breast specialist and/or genetic specialist to determine whether or not you have an increased risk of breast cancer. If the risk warrants, more frequent breast exams, additional breast imaging, preventative medications or preventive surgeries may be appropriate.

You can learn more about our High Risk and Cancer Risk Reduction Program here or call 260-217-5813 for assistance scheduling an appointment.



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