Reducing my chances of getting breast cancer
Alfredo Nino, MD, is medical director of the Laura Dreier Breast Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
Question: I know that heredity is a risk factor for breast cancer I’m stuck with, but what changes can I make in my life to reduce my chances of getting this disease?
Answer: According to the American Cancer Society there are a few lifestyle choices that may affect a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer.
One high-risk group is women who have had their first child after the age of 30, or those who have not had children. Pregnancy reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which may be the reason for this effect.
Studies have also found that there is a higher risk for women who are using birth control pills, opposed to those who have never used them. Women who stopped using the pill more than 10 years ago do not seem to have any increased risk. It is important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.
Research has also found that women who breast feed, especially if it lasts one and a half to two years cumulatively, lowers the risk. Like pregnancy, this also reduces a woman’s total number of menstrual periods.
Other lifestyle choice that could directly impact a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer include: alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and obesity. According to the American Cancer Society, those who have two to five drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk, compared to women who do not drink alcohol. Women are advised to limit the amount of alcohol consumed daily to a maximum of one drink. Women should also maintain a healthy amount of daily exercise to reduce their risk. It is believed that as little as one hour and 15 minutes to two and a half hours of brisk walking per week reduced the risk by 18 percent.
Reviewed February 2011