In the United States, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. It affects one in eight women. About two thirds are age 55 or older.1
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a good time to think about how you can lessen your risk of developing the disease. Some risk factors are out of our control, like age, family history and genetic makeup. But studies have shown links between risk of breast cancer and controllable factors like lifestyle and environment. Here are some things you can do to help lower your risk.
Make it a habit to stay healthy.
- Drinking alcohol, smoking, being overweight and being inactive lead to higher risk of breast cancer.
- Some studies have shown that women with high-fiber diets were diagnosed with breast cancer less often. A fiber-rich diet also helps prevent diabetes and heart disease.
If you have children, breast feed.
The longer you breast feed, the better you are protected against breast cancer, studies have shown.
Talk to your doctor before starting hormone therapy.
- If you take estrogen or a combination-type hormone therapy for symptoms of menopause, it may increase your risk of breast cancer.
- If you do choose to use hormone therapy, use the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time.
Get regular mammograms and do regular self-checks.
- Ask your doctor when you should start regular mammograms.
- Know your breast type. If you have “dense” breast tissue, you might need to take other measures to detect potential tumors.
- Perform regular self-checks. You can find guides to breast cancer self-exams online. Here’s what you should look and feel for:
- Abnormal lumps or masses near your underarm.
- Dimples, bulges or ridges on the skin.
- A new change in your nipple, such as inversion.
- Redness, warmth, swelling or pain.
Talk to your doctor about other prevention options.
If you know you’re at a high risk of breast cancer based on family history, talk to your doctor about preventive medications or surgeries.