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How to Prevent Breast Cancer (what science tells us)

Updated on March 4, 2010


Breast cancer is the second most common cancer that affects American women behind skin cancer.  Preventing breast cancer or detecting it early can be helpful in reducing death rates from cancer.  This article will look at steps each woman should consider to prevent breast cancer. 

1.       Exercise for at least four hours a week.  This reduces hormone levels associated with breast cancer.   It is especially important before menopause as premenopausal women derive the greatest benefit from exercise. 

2.      Lose weight.  Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer. 

3.      Reduce estrogen exposure.  The shorter period of time the breast tissue is exposed to estrogen the lower the risk of breast cancer.  You can do this by becoming pregnant or breastfeeding.

4.      Ask your parents about any family history of breast cancer.  Anyone with a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer is at increased risk.  Those with a family history of breast cancer may be candidates for early screening, genetic testing or prophylactic treatment. 

5.      Consider genetic testing if there is a family history of mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.  This may be present if you have a history of early breast cancer in your family. 

6.      Have a mammogram.   Recently the recommendation was changed that women between 50 and 74 years old should have screening every two years.  Those fifty and below should consider being tested after a thoughtful conversation with their physician considering  the risks of testing and potential benefits. 

7.      Limit alcohol consumption – consider complete abstinence from alcohol.  While alcohol may be beneficial for some health problems, studies show that those who drink  one drink per day  have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than those who do not drink.

8.     Avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  HRT is commonly used to treat symptoms of menopause, but may increase the risk breast cancer and other conditions. 

9.      If at high risk for breast cancer consider medications to prevent breast cancer.  Tamoxifen or raloxifene may benefit some women at high risk for breast cancer if they are at low risk of complications of therapy.  Talk to your doctor.


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      Martha 7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips

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      Sally 7 years ago

      Good to know what science tells us.