The thought of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be crippling, and many women wonder if there are any ways to prevent breast cancer that are within their control.
While breast cancer risk factors are genetic and out of our control, a few protective factors do reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Understanding these strategies and taking the necessary steps to ensure you’re living a healthy life is the most effective way to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer.
What are the risk factors and main causes of breast cancer?
When abnormal cells develop in the breast and multiply, breast cancer forms. While researchers don’t know for sure why abnormal cells develop, they have pinpointed a few risk factors and the main causes of breast cancer. These include:
Older age is the primary risk factor for breast cancer. According to Cancer.gov, women over 30 have a 1 in 200 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 10 years, while women over 70 have a 1 in 25 chance.
Women are much more likely to get breast cancer than men, although male breast cancer does happen. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 297,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2023, with around 2,800 men receiving the same diagnosis.
Women with a history of breast cancer in their immediate family, including their mother, sister, or daughter, have an increased risk of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.
Your lifestyle choices significantly impact your risk of breast cancer. Smoking and drinking alcohol are breast cancer risk factors, particularly if you consume regularly or have been a smoker for many years.
Obesity is another risk factor for breast cancer. Fat tissue is known to contain excess amounts of estrogen, a hormone that is associated with breast cancer, when high levels are present in a woman’s body.
How to Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer On Your Own
When it comes to breast cancer, many factors are out of your control. However, you can play a role in reducing your risk and potentially catching cancer early by doing the following:
Pay attention to your body
You know your body better than anyone, so pay attention to any signs or symptoms that may present themselves. If your breasts or skin change in appearance or you detect a lump, consult your doctor immediately.
Stay on top of mammograms and breast checks
Breast cancer screening recommendations are helpful ways to prevent disease and are highly effective at detecting breast cancer. These screenings include mammograms, breast ultrasounds or MRIs, and clinical breast exams performed by a doctor or nurse.
Know your family history
Some forms of breast cancer run in families, so knowing your immediate family history is critical to reducing your risk. Some people opt for genetic testing to know with more certainty what their risk is.
5 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer With Your Lifestyle Choices
Genes, lifestyle choices, and your environment can all increase or decrease the risk of getting cancer at some point in your life. This applies to all kinds of diseases, not just breast cancer.
Fortunately, we have some control over our lifestyle choices and can take steps to make modifications as necessary to improve our health. Here are five meaningful improvements you can make in order to decrease your risk of getting breast cancer.
A healthy diet won’t actually prevent breast cancer from forming, but it can help lower the risk of getting it by ensuring your body is healthy and functioning properly by boosting your immune system.
Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid saturated fats, processed meats, and charred foods.
For women who are genetically predisposed to breast cancer or have already beaten the disease, any steps to feel proactive with their health is often very helpful. As Evidation research suggests, nearly 23 percent of surveyed individuals reported feeling fearful and concerned about their cancer returning. Research shows that low-fat diets may reduce the risk of first-time breast cancer as well as recurring breast cancer, which is encouraging for those women who have already received a breast cancer diagnosis and those who are in remission.
Research shows that women who are active and get regular physical exercise have a 10-20 percent lower risk of getting breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women.
We already know that staying active is essential to maintaining peak physical health at any age and can drastically improve overall health. Staying active has many benefits; you just have to find an activity you enjoy doing and make it a consistent habit in your life.
Adults need 150 minutes of moderately intense physical exercise per week to stay healthy and at least two days of strength training (working out with weights).
Avoid Smoking and Drinking
When a person inhales smoke from a cigarette, they are breathing harmful toxins into their lungs. These toxins include cancer-causing chemicals, increasing the risk of getting breast cancer at some point in their lives, especially when compared to people who have never smoked.
It’s never too late to kick the habit if you're a smoker. Doing so can decrease your risks of getting breast cancer and other diseases, including lung cancer or heart disease.
Drinking alcohol is much more widely accepted, and some forms, like red wine, are often recommended for improving heart health. Alcohol is still a toxin and should be enjoyed in serious moderation.
Alcohol increases the levels of estrogen and other hormones in a woman’s body, which are associated with certain types of breast cancer.
Most experts recommend having two or fewer alcoholic drinks per week to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight can significantly increase a woman’s breast cancer risk before and after menopause.
If you are overweight, work with your doctor to develop a plan to lose weight healthily. Plan to add physical exercise to your weekly schedule and start swapping out any unhealthy foods with clean options that will give you more energy and help you burn more calories. Eating healthy, balanced meals can help you feel satisfied and full to avoid snacking until your next meal.
If possible, breastfeed your children for up to one year to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
During breastfeeding, the body loses breast tissue, which can remove cells with potential DNA damage. Breastfeeding also changes the hormones (like estrogen) in a woman’s body and reduces your contact with them. Many of these hormones promote breast cancer growth.
Using Evidation to Improve Your Overall Health
Thinking about receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at any point in your life can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your risk and ensure your body is as healthy as possible.
Using Evidation, members can develop positive behaviors to create healthy habits for the long term. From tracking your steps to keeping a food diary and tracking your progress along the way, Evidation empowers our community to make impactful changes in their lives, one day at a time. Get started here.