Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 25 March 2021
Table of contents
How to Prevent Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Experts are not sure what causes breast cancer, but some factors increase the chances of getting it. Age, genetic makeup, personal medical history, and diet are also factors to consider. Some things you have control of, and others you don’t.
Fixed Risk Factors – Uncontrollable
- Age. Breast cancer is more common in women over 50 than in younger women.
- Race: Breast cancer is more prevalent in African-American women before menopause than in caucasian women.
- Dense breasts. It may be difficult to see cancers on a mammogram if the breasts contain more connective tissue than fatty tissue.
- Personal history of cancer. Certain benign breast problems increase the chances slightly. If you've had breast cancer previously, the risk increases significantly.
- Family history. You're two times more likely to get breast cancer if a first-degree female parent (mother, sister, or daughter) has it. A family history of breast cancer in two or more first-degree members raises the chances by at least three times. This is particularly true if the cancer developed during menopause or if both breasts were affected. If your father or brother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, your chance rises.
- Genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are linked to certain forms of breast cancer in families. One of every 200 women carries one of these chromosomes. Although they increase the chances of getting cancer, they do not guarantee that you will. You have a 7 in 10 risks of being diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 80 whether you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. These genes have also been related to pancreatic cancer and male breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer. PTEN gene mutations, ATM gene mutations, TP53 gene mutations, CHEK2 gene mutations, CDH1 gene mutations, STK11 gene mutations, and PALB2 gene mutations are all related to breast cancer risk. These genes have a smaller chance of developing breast cancer than the BRCA genes.
- Menstrual history. Breast cancer risks increase if:
- Early menarche: You develop your first period before 12 years old.
- Late menopause: Your period does not stop until after 55 years old.
- Radiation. You had a higher chance of breast cancer if you had surgery for cancers like Hodgkin's lymphoma by the age of 40.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES). Between 1940 and 1971, physicians used this medication to avoid miscarriage. Your chances of getting breast cancer are increased if you or your mother received it.
Fixed Risk Factors – Controllable
- Physical activity. The more sedentary your lifestyle, the higher the risk.
- Weight and diet. Being overweight increases risk.
- Alcohol. Regular heavy drinking increases risk.
- Reproductive history.
- Not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding your child is protective.
- Having your first child after 30 years old.
- Not having a full-term pregnancy.
- Taking hormones. Your risk increases if you:
- Use oestrogen and progesterone-based hormone replacement therapies for more than 5 years during menopause.After 5 years after stopping treatment, the increased risk of breast cancer returns to normal.
- Using hormone-containing birth control methods such as birth control tablets, injections, implants, IUDS, skin patches, or vaginal rings.
Despite this, the majority of people who are at increased risk for breast cancer do not develop it. 75 percent of people who develop breast cancer, on the other hand, have no identified risk factors.
Breast Cancer Prevention
These recommendations can help in the prevention of breast cancer:
- Manage your weight. Putting on weight as an adult increases the risk of developing breast cancer following menopause.
- Stay active. Exercise helps to reduce the risk. Each week, aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a mix). Spread it out throughout the course of the week.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Women can have no more than one alcoholic drink a day, according to experts.
- Breastfeed. Longer is better when it comes to lowering the risk.
- Limit hormone therapy after menopause. Inquire with your doctor about non-hormonal treatment choices for your symptoms.
- Get screened. Recommendations differ depending on the patient's age, risk, and other considerations.
- 40-49: Mammogram screen every 2 years or when the doctor recommends.
- 50-74: Mammogram screen every 2 years.
- 75+: Ask your doctor about the frequency of mammogram screens.
Referenced on 25.3.2021
- American Cancer Society: “Learn about Cancer: Breast Cancer."
- National Cancer Institute: “Breast Cancer."
- CDC: “Breast Cancer."
- BreastCancer.org: “Male Breast Cancer,” “Metastatic Breast Cancer,” “U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics”
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Breast Cancer in Men.”
- Breast Cancer Prevention Partners: “Breast Cancer Subtypes.”
- CDC: “Breast Cancer: What Are the Risk Factors?”
- American Cancer Society: “Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Cannot Change,” “Can I Lower My Risk of Breast Cancer?”, “Lifestyle-related Breast Cancer Risk Factors,”
- Cancer.net: “Breast Cancer Diagnosis,” “Breast Cancer: Introduction,” “Breast Cancer: Statistics.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk.”
- National Cancer Institute: “Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Breast cancer.”
- Cancer.net: “Breast Cancer in Men: Statistics.”