Breast Cancer: How to Reduce Your Risk

Minimizing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

In the United States, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. With such shockingly high statistics, it is important for women of all ages to understand the risk factors that can increase their chances of developing this chronic disease and how healthy lifestyle choices can help minimize those odds.

Know Your Risk

Being a Woman

Although it is possible for men to develop breast cancer, being a woman is the biggest risk when it comes to the chances of developing the disease. In fact, women account for about 99% of all new breast cancer cases in the United States each year, affecting more than 300,000 women.

Age

Like many health conditions and other forms of cancer, your risk for developing breast cancer continues to increase as you age. In fact, 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are most commonly found in women over the age of 55. This is because your body is more likely to experience genetic damage and your body becomes less capable of repairing it on its own.

Family History

If you have a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer yourself. Your risk about 2 times that of a person without a family history of breast cancer.

Genetics

Certain genetic factors put you at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. For example, if you carry either the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you are more likely to develop breast cancer than those who don’t.

Dense Breast Tissue

Those with dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more gland tissue than those who don’t have dense breasts. Women with this more glandular and fibrous tissue are twice as likely to develop breast cancer than those with less dense tissue.

You’ve Had Breast Cancer Before

If you’ve had breast cancer before, you are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop new cancer in the opposite breast o a different area of the same breast. However, it is important to note that this is different from the risk of recurrence, which is the return of the same cancer.

Being Overweight or Obese

Women who have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. They also have an increased risk of recurrence if they’ve previously had breast cancer. This is because your body’s fat cells create estrogen, and estrogen can cause hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to develop and grow. When you’re overweight, you have more fat that produces more estrogen.

Perform Routine Self-Exams

Like many other forms of cancer, early detection is important when it comes to the effective treatment of breast cancer. Along with staying up-to-date on your well-woman visits with your gynecologist, you can increase your odds of early detection and effective treatment. It is recommended that women of all ages perform self breast exams every month to track any changes in their breast tissue or any other causes for concern. Follow these steps to perform a self-exam:

  • Feel for any abnormalities while in the shower.
  • Look for abnormalities in your breast appearance in the mirror.
  • Lie down and feel for lumps or bumps in your breast tissue.

Signs and Symptoms

Although breast cancer can be detected through self-exams and mammograms, there are warning signs that can point to the presence of cancer or other abnormalities in your breast tissue. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN:

  • New lumps or bumps in your breast or armpit.
  • Swelling or thickening of part of your breast.
  • Dimpling of the skin.
  • Red or flaky skin on the nipple of breast.
  • Pulling in of the nipple.
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk.
  • Changes in the size and shape of your breasts.
  • Pain in any area of the breast.

Tips to Prevent the Development of Breast Cancer

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI is important when it comes to reducing your risk of developing breast cancer. In order to lose or maintain your weight, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Remaining physically active helps to “burn off” calories, helping you to create a calorie deficit to help you lose weight.

  • Most weight loss happens when you decrease the amount of calories you’re getting from the foods you eat, so eating a healthy diet is important.

  • Remaining physically active reduces your health risks more than the weight loss alone.

Staying Physically Active

Staying physically active and fit plays an important role in your overall health, especially when it comes to preventing chronic health conditions and illnesses like breast cancer. According to the CDC, you should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

Breastfeed Your Babies

Breastfeeding is known to significantly reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, especially for women who choose to breastfeed their children for more than 1 year. This is because breastfeeding women make milk constantly, allowing the cells within the breast to have less time to make mistakes or abnormalities. Women also have fewer menstrual cycles while breastfeeding, lowering their production of estrogen.

Limiting Alcohol Consumption

Research has shown that compared to women who don’t drink, women who drink alcohol are 15% more likely to develop breast cancer. Whether you choose to cut out drinking completely or limit your drinking to one to two drinks each week, you can effectively reduce your risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Quitting Smoking

Like most cancers, smoking and using tobacco products is linked to causing breast cancer in women of all ages. Unfortunately, it can also interfere with the treatment of breast cancer once it’s been diagnosed.

If you are a smoker, it is advised that you quit smoking to help to reduce your risks and if you aren’t a smoker, it is advised that you don’t start.

Women’s Health Services in Ridgecrest, California

At Ridgecrest Regional Hospital Women’s Health Services department,you can rest assured knowing that your needs are in the most capable hands. Our experienced and compassionate physicians provide attentive and personalized care for women of all ages.


To learn more about our women’s health services or schedule an appointment, visit our website or give us a call at (760) 446-3551.