Authored by Revere Health

Breast Cancer Prevention

May 25, 2017 | Cancer CenterHematology-OncologyMedical Oncology

Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States second to skin cancer. Men can also develop breast cancer, but it’s much more common in women.

As research and support for breast cancer have increased, breast cancer survival rates have increased as well. This is largely due to early detection, personalized treatment and better understanding of cancer. Here are risk factors to know, risk prevention practices and the best early detection methods for breast cancer.


Knowing Risk Factors

Knowing the risk factors for cancer can help prevent it. Although there are some risk factors you can’t control, like age and genetics, other risk factors can be avoided through healthy lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle-related breast cancer risk factors (risk factors you can control) include:


  • Alcohol consumption: Women who have two to five alcoholic drinks daily have about one and a half more times the breast cancer risk as women who do not drink.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese after menopause increases your risk of breast cancer, though this risk can be complex. The American Cancer Society recommends balancing a healthy diet with regular exercise to avoid weight gain.
  • Lack of physical exercise: A study indicated that as little as 75 to 150 minutes of brisk walking can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 18 percent.
  • Having children: Women who either haven’t had children or don’t have their first child until after age 30 have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • Having multiple pregnancies, or becoming pregnant earlier in life, is linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer.
  • Birth control use: Both oral contraceptives and birth control implants can raise risk slightly.
  • Hormone therapy: Certain types of hormone therapy using estrogen may increase breast cancer risk. If you use hormone therapy, speak to your doctor about risks associated with breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding: Some studies suggest breastfeeding may lower breast cancer risk, but more research is needed.


Breast cancer risk factors you have no control over, but can still benefit from being aware of, include:


  • Age: Risk goes up with age
  • Genetics: About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary
  • Family or personal history
  • Race and ethnicity: White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die from it. Asian, Hispanic and • Native American women have a lower risk level for both areas
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Benign breast conditions
  • Starting menstruation before age 12
  • Going through menopause after age 55
  • Previous radiation therapy in the chest


Several factors may influence breast cancer, but research has yet to prove a firm link. There are also several myths and controversies surrounding supposed breast cancer factors that have been disproved.


Early Detection Methods

Many women who develop breast cancer don’t show noticeable symptoms that signal its onset. For this reason, there are screening tests available that women should have done regularly. The most common of these is a mammogram, a test that can detect breast changes years before cancer actually develops. Research shows that women who have mammograms are more likely to detect cancer early, less likely to need invasive treatment and more likely to be cured.

For the average woman, the following recommendations are given for frequency of mammograms:


  • Ages 40-44: The option to screen every year is available.
  • Ages 45-54: Screening should be done every year.
  • Ages 55 and up: Can continue yearly mammograms, or can switch to every other year.


These requirements are different for women at a higher risk of breast cancer. In addition, all women should know how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any changes to a healthcare provider immediately. Clinical and self breast exams have not been proven to increase cancer detection in women who already receive regular mammograms.

In addition, tests like breast ultrasounds, breast MRI exams and certain experimental imaging exams might help with breast cancer detection. If a positive diagnosis comes back, a biopsy will confirm it.



There are several areas you can look at to help reduce breast cancer risk. Medications are right for some people, but you should speak with your doctor about all the factors involved. For women at very high risk levels, certain preventive surgeries might be an option.

If you fall under several of the risk categories for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your specific diagnosis and the options to help reduce your risk and prevent its onset.

*Note: No two cancer cases are alike. None of the statements herein are designed to suggest a “one size fits all” approach, and each case will be evaluated individually.


We provide the latest in cancer treatment and technologies, and our staff keeps up on the latest treatment methods. Each patient has different needs and treatment goals, and there isn’t just one way to treat cancer. We will work with you to determine the best treatment options and continue to adjust and monitor your dosage or care throughout your treatment.



“Breast Cancer.” American Cancer Society.

“Breast cancer.” The Mayo Clinic.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.