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. 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. Although the link between diet and breast cancer is not clear, a healthy diet of at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day may help to reduce your overall 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
Regularly drinking alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. The more you drink the greater the risk. Australian guidelines recommend you limit your alcohol intake (beer, wine and spirits) to no more than two standard drinks a day, in order to reduce overall alcohol-related harm. However, for breast cancer risk, studies have suggested that even 1 standard drink per day increases risk. 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 Australian Government website guide to How much alcohol is safe to drink?
Tips for reducing alcohol include:
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them
- Start with a non-alcoholic drink and alternate with an alcoholic drink
- Drink slowly
- Try drinks with a lower alcohol content
- Have days off from drinking each week.
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.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy that contains both oestrogen and progesterone is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This risk increases the longer you take it. Research is conflicting regarding oestrogen-only HRT and breast cancer risk. Talk to your doctor about helpful strategies in managing menopausal symptoms.
Breastfeeding is encouraged because it has health benefits for babies and their mothers. Longer breastfeeding is associated with lower breast cancer risk. Australian guidelines suggest breastfeeding each baby for 12 months or longer if desired.
Medication and Surgery
For those at substantially increased risk of breast cancer, medication and (for those at very high risk) surgery, can substantially reduce your risk. You can use the iPrevent breast cancer risk tool to see if your level of risk is high enough to warrant having a discussion with your doctor about these things.