Although you cannot control your genetic risk of getting breast cancer, the following life-style modifications can help lower your overall risk of getting breast cancer:
- Exercise: Daily exercise of 30 minutes or more a day can reduce breast cancer risk.
- Weigh control: There is a link between obesity and increased risk for developing breast cancer. Weight control, along with exercise, provides a double bonus in lowering risks
- Alcohol intake: There is also a link between alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer. Try to limit alcohol intake to one drink a day or less.
- Diet: There is limited data to support the assumption that a low-fat diet lowers the risk of breast cancer. Although the benefits of a low-fat diet in terms of lowering risk of breast cancer are inconclusive, we still support a low fat diet for its overall health benefit. For low fat recipes, visit our Health eCooking webiste. Or for more information on a low fat diet, visit http://www.americanheart.org
- Avoidance of hormone replacement therapy (HRT): There is a small, but definite, increased risk of developing breast cancer if a woman chooses to take HRT after natural or surgical menopause. Avoiding using HRT can possibly reduce this risk. The choice to use HRT, however, is a personal choice based on quality-of-life issues and health reasons. Read below for more information.
Post-menopausal hormone replacement
Short-term hormone replacement for the treatment of menopausal symptoms is safe, but the decision to take hormones after menopause should be made after a review of risks, options and alternatives with your personal physician. Long-term replacement, especially with a combination of estrogen and progesterone, is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Women with severe post-menopausal symptoms who accept the associated risks should take the lowest dose of hormones required to control symptoms. Every few years, an attempt should be made to reduce or eliminate HRT.
Birth Control Pills (BCP)
Most studies demonstrate little or no increased breast cancer risk with the use of birth control pills. We do know BCPs definitely lower the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50%. They may also lower the risk of future endometrial cancer. The advantages of BCPs seem to outweigh their risks for the vast majority of women.
Estrogen blocking agent (Tamoxifen/Raloxifine)
Estrogen blockade (Tamoxifen) has been used for decades for women with previously diagnosed breast cancer. It has been highly effective in lowering the risk of recurrence. More recently, Tamoxifen has been used in high risk women to prevent breast cancer. Current results suggest a 50% reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer with the use of Tamoxifen. High-risk women should discuss the risks and advantages of taking Tamoxifen with their physiciansOne of the problems with Tamoxifen is an increased risk of uterine cancer. An alternative drug that protects the breast and does not stimulate the uterus is Raloxifine (Evista), which is the drug of choice in high-risk women whose uterus is intact. Raloxifene (trade name: Evista) works similarly to Tamoxifen, and is beginning to be used for the same purpose as Tamoxifen. Fortunately, both drugs are also helpful in protecting women against osteoporosis.
Prophylactic mastectomy is the removal of a normal breast in an effort to prevent the future development of a breast cancer. It is, of course, reserved primarily for women at a very high risk for developing breast cancer.
This surgery is also sometimes done for women undergoing mastectomy on one side, and want the other side removed for personal reasons. Although there is no medical data that demonstrates improved survival when prophylactic mastectomy is done in conjunction with removal of a breast with cancer, it does give some women a sense of relief, knowing they will not need to be followed anymore with yearly mammograms. This procedure is usually done with immediate reconstruction. Patient satisfaction with prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction has been excellent.