9 Ways You Can Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

According to the latest statistics, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Luckily with new advancements in treatment, the mortality associated with breast cancer has decreased. Still the disease claims over 40,000 lives a year in the US alone, so knowing how to reduce your risk of breast cancer is an important asset.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the result of DNA mutations, which is characterized by a solid tumor that originates in the tissue of the breast. There are a few different factors that can cause this DNA mutation. The majority of them are acquired later in life. The most common age of diagnosis is 65. Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer simply because the longer you live, the more opportunity there is for the DNA in your breast to develop a mutation.

Sometimes these DNA mutations are inherited at birth, like the BRCA1 or BCRA2 gene. If your family has a history of breast cancer, it is important to go through screening and genetic treatment early, as sometimes preventative treatment is recommended. (NY Daily News)

Your breast cancer risk is also tied to certain other health issues, which is where our 9 ways to reduce your risk come in. Some recent studies have found that there are in fact some changes you can make and habits you can work on to reduce your odds of getting breast cancer:

  1. Be mindful of your weight. Becoming overweight or obese (especially after menopause or later in life) increases breast cancer risk. This is because after menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue increases your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Women who are overweight also tend to have higher levels of insulin, which is another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to other cancers.
  2. Exercise regularly. A few different studies have found that exercising regularly can improve your chances of avoiding breast cancer. One particular study from the Women’s Health Initiative found that as little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week reduced a woman’s risk by 18%. The American Cancer Society recommends that you don’t try to cram this into one long workout, but instead spread it out over the course of the week.
  3. Limit time spent sitting. A study from the American Cancer Society showed that women who spent more than 6 hours a day sitting when not working had a 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than 3 hours a day.
  4. Limit your drinking. Research has shown that women who have 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk compared to women who don’t drink at all. Women who have one drink a day have a very small increase in risk as well. Excessive drinking has been found to increase your risk of other cancer types as well. (American Cancer Society)
  5. Don’t smoke. It’s no surprise that smoking is bad for your health. However, accumulating evidence suggests that there’s actually a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.
  6. Breastfeed. According to the Mayo Clinic, breast-feeding may play a role in breast cancer prevention. They suggest that the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effect. (Mayo Clinic)
  7. Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) was used in the past to help control some symptoms of menopause like night sweats and hot flashes. Researchers now know that postmenopausal women who take the combination of estrogen and progestin may be more likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer risk appears to return to normal within five years after stopping this treatment. (American Cancer Society).
So instead, talk to your doctor about other options to control your menopause symptoms. If you do decide that HRT is the right choice for you, it’s best to use the lowest dose you can for the shortest possible time.
  1. Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. While environmental pollution can be difficult to protect yourself against, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to radiation. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation that may be linked with developing breast cancer. Reduce your exposure by having a conversation with your doctor to make sure every test is absolutely necessary before they’re done.
  2. Receive annual mammograms starting at age 40. Since most of the time breast cancer does not cause symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, it is important to detect it long before symptoms appear. For most women, starting at age 40 is early enough, but higher risk patients (like women with a mother or sister who had cancer at an early age) may need to start getting mammograms much earlier. (NY Daily News)

Hopefully knowing and practicing these tips will put your mind at ease from worrying about breast cancer. For more information, be sure to look to the sources provided below.





Seeking a Cancer Second Opinion

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you are bombarded with endless treatment decisions. Since cancer moves fast, you may accept the treatment suggestion from your doctor and start the process to becoming cancer-free. What if there is a better treatment? What if the suggested treatment was not the optimal choice? “One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. It is estimated that up to one in five of those will be misdiagnosed or mistreated, which may result in increased chances for recurrence or sub-optimal treatment, leading to unnecessary side-effects and complications” (OncoLogic Advisors). Receiving a cancer second opinion ensures you that your diagnosis is correct and your treatment plan is optimal.

Reasons to receive a cancer second opinion:
  • You want to explore all the options
  • You want to ensure your diagnosis is correct
  • You want to learn about clinical trials
  • You have a rare cancer type
  • Many options exist for your cancer type
  • Your doctor is unsure of your treatment
  • You are unsure of your doctor
  • Your doctor is not a specialist in your cancer type
  • You want to be sure you are receiving the optimal treatment
How do I receive a cancer second opinion?

It is important to let your doctor know you wish to seek a second opinion. Most doctors will even recommend a cancer second opinion doctor. Make sure your cancer second opinion doctor has the necessary credentials, board certification, training, and experience. You can find a doctor through a referral, local hospital/clinics, medical associations, American Board of Medical Specialties, American Medical Association, American College of Surgeons, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and OncoLogic Advisors.

What do I bring to my appointment?

You will be asked to bring (or send over) necessary medical records, such as tests results (blood work or imaging tests). Many times the doctor providing the cancer second opinion will request tests or procedures you have already completed, eliminating the repeat process. The cancer second opinion doctor may also request images, such as computed tomography (CT) scan and pathology slides (from biopsy).

What do I discuss in my appointment?

Make sure to listen carefully to your options and take notes during the appointment. If you do not understand the diagnosis, ask questions. It is important that you feel comfortable and confident about the information that is being discussed. Bring a family member or close friend with you to the appointment.

After the appointment:

Now that you have received a second opinion, it is time to find the optimal treatment plan. Make an appointment with your first doctor and discuss the second opinion results. If necessary, arrange for the two doctors to speak and review the case together. Seek a third opinion, if necessary.

Remember – When diagnosed with cancer, time is of the essence. Make sure you receive a timely appointment, to avoid a long interruption time before treatment. At Oncologic Advisors, we understand your time is valuable and provide fast and objective second opinions.

About our service:

OncoLogic Advisors are a group of dedicated, objective oncologists providing navigational assistance to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. If necessary, we arrange for second or multiple opinions from leading physicians—regionally or nationwide. As objective patient advocates, our approach is revolutionary. We cast a wide net and do the analysis and research, enabling patients to make confident decisions about doctors, treatment centers, and methods of treatment.  We review the risks and benefits of each of those treatments—all while providing support and guidance through each decision point—from work-up and beyond. We prepare patients to ask relevant and necessary questions during their doctor visits. Our current healthcare system lacks objective, expert, oncologist advocates for cancer patients. OncoLogic Advisors, a logical, revolutionary service, is changing the paradigm.