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Breast Cancer Prevention: How to Reduce Your Risk

Breast Cancer Prevention: How to Reduce Your Risk
A mammogram is an important screening tool that can catch breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages. But you can do even more to protect your breasts than get regular mammograms. Here’s how to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

Approximately one out of every eight women in the United States will develop an invasive breast cancer at some point during their lives. Every year, American women are diagnosed with more than 285,000 cases of invasive breast cancer and 51,400 cases of noninvasive (i.e., in situ) breast cancer.

Regular breast cancer screening, including mammograms and, if appropriate, ultrasound, helps identify breast cancer at its earliest stages. When caught soon enough, many cases of breast cancer can be completely resolved.

At Mass Medical Imaging in Lake Forest, Illinois, our expert doctors, Joseph Calandra, MD and Karen Mass, MD, recommend regular screening mammograms starting at age 40. However, they also advise lifestyle adjustments to protect your breasts. 

Would you like to reduce your risk of breast cancer? Here’s how to do it.

Lose excess, unhealthy weight

You don't have to slim down to be model-trim (that’s not healthy!). Instead, find out what your ideal weight is for your height and frame and then make lifestyle changes to try to obtain that. This has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with health.

Women who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for all types of cancers, including breast cancer. Of course, being at (and staying at) a healthy weight reduces your risk for many types of diseases and chronic conditions, including heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Get on your feet

Staying active not only prevents cancer and strengthens your cardiovascular system; it also helps you lose weight and keep it off. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise reduces your risk of breast cancer. Try:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Joining a gym
  • Doing tai chi
  • Getting involved in a sport

If you have a sedentary job, be sure to get up every 30 minutes to stretch or walk. Standing and walking help to keep your blood flowing freely.

Quit alcohol and cigarettes

While doctors used to recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two for men, that guideline has recently been revised. In fact, when it comes to alcohol, the same restrictions apply as do for cigarettes: No amount is safe.

Alcohol has been implicated in the development of at least seven different types of cancer, including breast cancer. Even minimal consumption can affect health. The type of alcohol doesn’t matter: Whether you drink wine, spirits, or beer, it’s the alcohol itself that’s carcinogenic.

Quitting smoking and alcohol can enhance your health in other ways, too. It reduces your risk for other types of cancer, lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease, and may even protect your brain as you age.

Go Mediterranean (or DASH)

The Mediterranean or DASH diets seem to be the most cancer-protective diets out there. Both emphasize a plentitude of green vegetables and low-glycemic fruits. Cut down on factory-farmed red meats and other types of saturated fats, while boosting good fats such as organic olive oil, nuts, and avocados.

If you’re not ready for major restrictions quite yet, start by adding. In other words, add more leafy greens, more fermented vegetables, more whole grains, and more low-glycemic fruits. If you need help adjusting your diet, we can refer you to a dietician.

Think twice about hormone therapies

Both hormonal birth control (such as the pill) and hormone replacement therapies (BRT) after menopause have tremendous benefits. Hormonal contraception is highly effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy, and may help regulate a painful or overly heavy period. BRT can stop severe menopause symptoms such as bone loss, and cognitive trouble.

However, if you have a family history of cancer, especially breast cancer, hormone therapy may not be right for you. We work with you to determine whether HRT or the pill is safe for you.

Breastfeed, if you can

If you’re pregnant or just gave birth, breastfeeding doesn’t just have benefits for your baby; it can keep you safe, too. In fact, the longer you breastfeed, the better protected you are against breast cancer.

Get extra help if you’re at high risk

If you have a family or personal history of breast cancer, you can take your preventive steps to another level. First, prophylactic drug therapy, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, lowers breast cancer risk in women who are already at high risk. 

You may also benefit from genetic screening. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes dramatically increase your risk for breast cancer. To keep your breasts as healthy as possible, schedule your screening mammogram today: Just call our friendly team or use our online appointment form.