• Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

    Although certain genetic factors may not be preventable, there are other precautions you can take to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer . If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested for the breast and ovarian cancer gene mutation (BRCA1 and BRCA2). Women who carry this gene are at very high risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers and should be followed closely. If you do have these risk factors, you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of having a mastectomy before cancer develops.
    General precautions you can take to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer include:

    Talk to Your Doctor About Screenings

    Talk to your doctor about the best screening schedule for you. Breast cancer screenings include:

    Limit Exposure to Estrogen When Possible

    High levels of estrogen have been linked to the development of breast cancer. For older women, the greatest exposure to estrogen is via postmenopausal hormone replacement . Therefore, you should have a frank conversation with your doctor as to the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement relative to breast cancer.
    Other lifestyle factors may also increase your exposure to estrogen. If possible, try to limit these factors:
    • Overweight after the age of menopause
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Physical inactivity
    Estrogen-Blocking Drugs
    There are two FDA-approved medicines to prevent invasive breast cancer in high-risk, postmenopausal women. tamoxifen and raloxifene work by blocking estrogen from binding to "estrogen-sensitive" cells, which prevents the cells from growing and dividing. These medicines do however increase your chances of having blood clots and stroke .

    Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Being overweight—particularly after menopause—may increase your chance of developing breast cancer. This is due to the fact that after menopause, most of the estrogen in a woman’s body comes from her fat tissue. The more fat on the body, the higher the degree of estrogen.

    Limit Alcohol Consumption

    Studies have shown that women who drink 2-4 alcoholic drinks daily have a 40% greater risk of developing breast cancer than nondrinkers. This may be due to the fact that alcohol may alter the way a woman's body metabolizes estrogen and may cause blood estrogen levels to rise, increasing the risk of breast cancer onset.

    Do Not Smoke

    Smoking greatly increases your risk of several cancers, including breast cancer.


    Exercise helps maintain weight and modulates high levels of estrogen. It is also believed that low to moderate levels of exercise may enhance the immune system, which ultimately may slow the growth rate or kill cancer cells. Overall, exercise has many benefits and is recommended for overall health and reducing the risk of breast cancer.


    Surgery to remove both breasts (called prophylactic mastectomy ) may be an option for women who are at very high risk for breast cancer. If have many risk factors for breast cancer, talk to your doctor to see if this is an option for you.


    Breast cancer. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated January 2010. Accessed May 9, 2010.

    Breast cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov . Accessed January 27, 2006.

    Mammograms and other breast imaging procedures. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI%5F2%5F6X%5FMammography%5Fand%5Fother%5FBreast%5FImaging%5FProcedures%5F5.asp . Updated September 2009. Accessed May 9, 2010.

    Prophylactic mastectomy: breast cancer prevention for high-risk women. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prophylactic-mastectomy/WO00060 . Updated November 2009. Accessed May 9, 2010.

    Screening for breast cancer. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated January 2009. Accessed May 9, 2010.

    Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Available at: http://www.komen.org . Accessed July 2006.

    1/8/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Nelson HD, Fu R, Griffin JC, Nygren P, Smith ME, Humphrey L. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness of medications to reduce risk for primary breast cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(10):703-15.

    1/28/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Lostumbo L, Carbine N, Wallace J. Prophylactic mastectomy for the prevention of breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(11):CD002748.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    Maybe it's time to stop guessing. If you've been wanting to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.