Breast Cancer Prevention
According to the National Cancer
Institute (NCI), more than 232,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer
in 2013. Next to skin cancer, it’s the most common cancer diagnosed in women. There
is no way to fully prevent breast cancer, since there is no singular cause. You
may be able to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, but it’s still
possible to develop the disease.
Some risk factors, like gender, family history, age, and
genetics, cannot be changed. Despite this, you can still make healthy choices
and change what you can.
The BRCA gene mutation increases a woman’s risk of
developing breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about getting genetic testing if
breast cancer runs in your family. If your results indicate that you are high
risk for developing breast cancer, there
are actions you can take to help reduce your risk. These include preventative
surgery, medication, and frequent breast exams. A genetic counselor can help
you with interpreting and understanding your results, and deciding what to do.
Diet and Lifestyle
Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of developing
breast cancer. Obesity, lack of physical
exercise, and smoking cigarettes are risk factors for the disease. Studies have
shown that maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise can reduce
your risk of breast cancer. Drinking alcohol has also been associated with an
increased risk of disease. It’s a good idea to limit or cut out alcoholic
drinks. Smoking increases your risk of several cancers, and quitting can help
reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Women with a history of a pregnancy before the age of 30
have been shown to have a lower risk of breast cancer compared with women whose
first pregnancy and birth occurred after 30, says breastcancer.org.
If you breastfeed for several months after giving birth, it might reduce your
risk of developing breast cancer, suggests the
American Cancer Society.
Using medication to help prevent cancer is called
chemoprevention. Several drugs have been shown to lower the risk of breast
cancer. These include:
- raloxifen (Evista)
- anastrozole (Arimidex)
- exemestane (Aromasin)
- letrozole (Femara)
These drugs help prevent breast cancer by interacting with
estrogen in different ways. Medication may not be right for everyone and can cause
side effects. Ask your doctor whether medication is appropriate for you.
Women who have taken hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are
at an increased risk for breast cancer. The two kinds of HRT are estrogen-only,
and combination. According to breastcancer.org,
estrogen-only HRT has been shown to raise breast cancer risk after taking it
for 10 or more years. Combination HRT raises breast cancer risk by 75 percent. If
you have taken HRT, it’s best to discuss with your doctor the risks and
benefits it carries for you.
Not only is this vitamin important for good bone health, but
it might also help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. This nutrient
is also important for healthy functioning of the immune, nervous, and muscle
systems. To increase your intake of vitamin D, get more sunlight! This vitamin
is made by the body in response to sunlight. It can also be found in fortified
milk, eggs, and supplements. Your doctor can help you with optimal levels of
vitamin D you should be ingesting.
It’s important to remember that despite a healthy diet,
supplementation, and avoiding as many risk factors as you can, breast cancer
can still occur. The origins of the disease are not fully known, and there is
not one definitive cause. Total prevention is impossible, but risk reduction is
an active way to take charge of your health.