The main risks for an increased chance of getting breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. In a small percentage of cases, family history and gene faults are risk factors, so your risk of developing breast cancer increases if:
- a close relative is diagnosed with breast cancer
- more than one relative is diagnosed with breast cancer
- your relative/s are diagnosed at a young age, and/or
- you have inherited a faulty gene.
The four main risk factors are not something we can change – so try not to become anxious and worried about them. You can’t stop yourself from getting older and you can’t choose your relatives!
There are a number of positive lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer and improve your overall wellbeing. Although these changes provide no guarantee that you won’t develop breast cancer, they’ll give you a start towards reducing your risk. It’s never too late to start!
Maintain a healthy weight
You can work towards achieving and maintaining a healthy weight by:
- Being active. Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. You don’t need to sweat it out at the gym to get the benefits. Moderate exercise, like a brisk walk, can be enough to reduce your cancer risk. Cancer Australia suggests aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day and reducing your sedentary habits, such as watching television.
- Eating well. A healthy diet of at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day may help to reduce your risk of cancer. Cancer Australia says that reducing fast foods and avoiding sugary drinks will help prevent weight gain and obesity.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Try to limit your alcohol intake (beer, wine and spirits) to no more than two standard drinks a day. A standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol.
It is important to note that drink serving sizes are often more than one standard drink. There are no common glass sizes used in Australia. The bottle label will tell you the number of standard drinks it contains. For more information see The National Health and Medical Research Council Standard drink guide.
Tips for reducing alcohol include:
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them
- Start with non-alcoholic drinks and alternate with alcoholic drinks
- Drink slowly
- Try drinks with a lower alcohol content
- Eat before or while you are drinking
- If you participate in rounds of drinks, try to include some non-alcoholic drink rounds
Quit or reduce smoking
If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, use every bit of information and support you can find to help you quit.
Knowing about all of the problems associated with smoking isn't always enough to make you quit. It’s a habit that's very hard to break. Fortunately, if you're serious about trying, you have lots of help. Visit the Quitline website or call them on 13 78 48. Your GP can also help with strategies and referrals.