Last week, we received an email from a reader asking if we could post some preventive measures against breast cancer. We appreciate your input and are happy to provide you with information. This week, we will be addressing this suggestion from our reader. If you’d like to suggest a topic or ask a question to be answered in an upcoming blog, please email us at or post a comment in the comments section of this blog.

While certain risk factors for breast cancer cannot be controlled, such as family history, there are some ways that you can lower your risks. Below are six risk factors that you can control:

  1. Reduce your alcohol consumption. Higher alcohol consumption in women has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. If you must drink, have no more than one drink per day. (One drink equals a 12-oz bottle of beer, 5-oz glass of wine, or 1.5-oz (one shot) of hard liquor. If you have a typical mixed drink, such as a Cosmo, you are likely having at least 2 shots, or the equivalent of 2 drinks). Click here to listen to an audio tip from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, particularly after menopause. Being overweight can also increase the risk of recurrence in women who have already had breast cancer. Click here for information about obesity and triple-negative breast cancer.
  3. Exercise. Exercising four or more hours per week may decrease hormone levels and help lower breast cancer risk. Sound like a lot of exercise? It’s not.  Four hours a week works out to only a little over a half hour per day. If you’ve never exercised before, start slowly, and check with your physician first. Remember that things like gardening, dancing, walking and playing tennis are all forms of exercise.
  4. Avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Hormone replacement therapy, in the form of estrogen, progesterone, or both, is sometimes given to postmenopausal women or women who have had their ovaries removed in order to replace the estrogen no longer produced by the ovaries. Combination HRT (combined estrogen and progesterone) increases the risk of breast cancer, and the longer the HRT is continued, the greater the risk. It is still unclear whether estrogen alone increases risk; however, some scientists believe that long-term estrogen use (10 years or more) may also increase breast cancer risk.
  5. Don’t smoke.  Aside from raising the risk of lung, throat and mouth cancers, smoking has also been linked with a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women. In addition, smoking can increase complications from breast cancer treatments.
  6. Make sure to go for your yearly digital mammogram or 3D mammogram. Early detection is key to improving your odds for defeating breast cancer. A breast sonogram may also be appropriate for women with dense breast tissue.

Other factors, including exposure to chemicals, certain plastics, low Vitamin D levels, and diet are suspected to be contributing factors to breast cancer; however, not enough studies have been done at this point to be conclusive.

Wondering what your risk is? The National Cancer Institute has an online Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool that can help you better understand your risk.

For more information on breast cancer risks and causes, visit:
Breast Cancer: Prevention, Genetics, Causes

How much can a woman lower her breast cancer risk? Click here for an article on the topic.