April 2022

5 Steps to Lower Your Risk for Breast Cancer


Does it seem like breast cancer is in the news a lot lately? Need helping sorting out the facts? Well, it’s true that breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among American women. And, unfortunately, some risks for this disease cannot be changed.

For one thing, you’re more likely to develop it as you get older. In fact, women ages 50 and older make up most breast cancer cases. Those whose mothers, sisters, or daughters have had breast cancer also face a higher risk. Race and ethnicity play a role, too. For example, breast cancer develops more often in white women than in Black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian women.

Take action  

There are other risk factors you can change, however. Follow these smart lifestyle strategies:

  1. Scale back. Women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a higher risk for breast cancer than those at a healthy weight.

  2. Stay on the move. Physical activity can help lower your chances of getting breast cancer.

  3. Don’t tip your glass too often. The more you drink, the more you’re at risk. One alcoholic beverage a day can add up to a 10% increase in risk; 2 to 3 a day bumps it to 20%.

  4. Clear the smoke away. According to the CDC, there’s evidence smoking may increase breast cancer risk.

  5. Think produce. Some studies suggest that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich dairy—but low in red and processed meats—might help lower the risk for breast cancer.

Schedule your screening


When breast cancer does strike, it’s very important to catch it in its early stages, when it’s most treatable. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early. Experts have different recommendations for this screening:

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every 2 years for women ages 50 to 74.

  • The American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram yearly for all women ages 45 to 54. Women ages 55 and older can continue with the same schedule or switch to getting a mammogram every other year.

Mammogram benefits and limitations vary based on factors like age and personal risk. Talk with your healthcare provider about your personal risk level before making a decision about when to start mammograms or how often to get them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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