Breast cancer risk reduction strategies (sometimes called prevention) involve lowering the risk, or chance, of developing breast cancer. If you have multiple risk factors and are determined by your physician to be at high risk, there may be things you can do to lower your chance for developing breast cancer.
- Lifestyle changes. Being overweight and being inactive are considered risk factors. You may possibly reduce your risk for developing breast cancer by keeping an ideal weight and getting regular exercise
- Double mastectomy. You may choose to have a double mastectomy, which means both breasts are removed. This may not totally eliminate your risk for developing breast cancer, as not all breast tissue can be removed
Some women who have already developed breast cancer in one breast may choose to have a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the other breast.
- Hormonal (estrogen-blocking/reducing) treatments. Breast cancer prevention clinical studies look for possible treatments to lower the chance of developing breast cancer. These studies usually involve women who have not had breast cancer but are at high risk for developing the disease
Researchers look for effective treatments to reduce the risk for breast cancer in women of different races and backgrounds. The majority of breast cancer prevention research is based on evidence linking the development of breast cancer to exposure to the hormone estrogen. Ongoing breast cancer prevention studies focus on the effectiveness of hormonal treatments.
Knowing you are at risk for developing breast cancer may help you to make lifestyle changes, be more aware of changes in your body, and be more diligent about breast cancer screening. It may also help guide you in making treatment decisions that could lower your risk of breast cancer.
In order to determine if a woman is at extremely high risk for developing breast cancer, genetic testing may help to determine if the cancer risk in a particular family has been passed down through the genes.
The process involves testing the blood for alterations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes the only currently identified gene mutations for breast cancer. Women with alterations in these genes have up to an 85% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
Deciding whether or not to have genetic testing is a difficult decision. You need to consider what you will do if you test positive for either BRCA1 or BRCA2. Testing positive for these genes does not mean you have breast cancer or that you will definitely get breast cancer. It simply means there are options to consider.
You may choose to be monitored more often for signs of breast cancer by having frequent mammograms and/or other imaging tests, such as MRI or ultrasound, and clinical breast exams.
Scientists are still investigating whether breastfeeding, smoking, high-fat diets, lack of exercise and environmental pollution increase breast cancer risk. Some studies have suggested that women who are using birth control pills have a very slight increased risk of developing breast cancer. That risk disappears after stopping them for 10 years or more. Still other studies show no relation. There are various factors that could affect breast cancer and current research is being performed to confirm whether certain factors increase breast cancer risk.
Factors not related to breast cancer :
- Fibrocystic breast changes
- Multiple pregnancies
- Coffee or caffeine intake
- Underwire bras
- Abortion or miscarriage
- Breast implants