Simply being a woman increases your risk of breast cancer. So does aging. And while little can be done to change either of those factors, here are six steps you can take to reduce your risk:
1. Know your family history
Women with close relatives who have battled breast cancer might have a higher risk of developing the disease. Around 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary, resulting from gene mutations passed on from parent to child.
The good news is advances in genetic testing have made it possible to identify some of these mutations, so if there’s a strong history of breast cancer in your family, talk to your doctor about the screening options available to you.
2. Get regular mammograms
The American Cancer Society advises that women get yearly mammograms starting at age 40, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends going every two years if you’re between the ages of 50 and 74.
So what should you do? That depends on your risk. If breast cancer runs in your family, a yearly mammogram schedule (along with any other tests your doctor suggests) might be the best course of action. If your risk is lower, speak with your doctor regarding the every two year approach to see if it’s a fit.
3. Exercise more
Exercising can reduce your cancer risk, regardless of your current weight. Experts recommend getting in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week should do the trick.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity, especially after menopause, has been found to heighten breast cancer risk. In an effort to maintain a healthy weight, increase your activity level and try eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while consuming fewer processed foods and animal fats.
5. Drink less alcohol
It might be time to rethink that nightly glass of wine. Simply put, the more you drink, the higher your risk of breast cancer. Even women who indulge in one alcoholic beverage per day have a slightly higher risk than those who don’t drink.
6. Don’t smoke
If you want to cut your cancer risk and improve your overall health, put down that cigarette (or e-cigarette). An American Cancer Society study found that women who smoke have a higher likelihood of getting breast cancer, especially if they started smoking before giving birth to their first child.