Live Well

Breast Cancer Prevention

Nearly everyone knows someone touched by breast cancer. It’s a scary disease, but treatments are improving, and we’re learning more every day about steps you can take to lower your risk.

While you can’t change some risk factors, such as family history, making healthful lifestyle choices such as these may help lower your breast cancer risk.

Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which affects your breast cancer risk. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If you've been inactive, start slowly and build up gradually to 30 minutes. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Keep your weight in check. Being overweight can increase the risk of many different cancers, including breast cancer, especially after menopause.

Eat healthy and avoid too much alcohol. A healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast cancer. Try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and keep alcohol at moderate levels or lower (a drink a day or less). While moderate drinking can be good for the heart in older adults, even low levels of intake can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Don't smoke. Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. Not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

Breastfeed, if possible. Breastfeeding for a total of one year or more (combined for all children) lowers the risk of breast cancer. It also has great health benefits for the child.

Avoid exposure to radiation. Many medical-imaging methods use high doses of radiation. Some research suggests a link between breast cancer and radiation exposure, though more studies are needed. Have such tests only when absolutely necessary.

Know your family history. You may be at high risk of breast cancer if you:

  • Have a mother or sister who developed breast or ovarian cancer (especially at an early age)
  • Have multiple family members (including males) who developed breast, ovarian or prostate cancer

Stay on top of screenings. Breast cancer screening with mammography can help find cancer early, when it’s most treatable. For most women, regular mammograms can begin at age 40, but specific recommendations vary by age and risk.

For more information about lowering your risk of breast cancer, talk to your doctor.