Although there are some things over which you have no control that increase your risk of developing breast cancer, there are measures that you can take to help lower your risk.
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 and well-balanced diet may help to reduce your overall risk of cancer.
See your GP if you’re unsure where to start to improve your activity level or change your diet so that you can be a healthy weight, see your GP. It might be suggested that you be referred to a dietitian or exercise physiologist for advice and management.
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?.
set limits for yourself and stick to them
start with a non-alcoholic drink (e.g. water) and alternate with an alcoholic drink
try drinks with a lower alcohol content
have days off from drinking each week.
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 Quitline or call them on 13 78 48. Your GP can also help with strategies and referrals.
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.
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.
Visit the Eat for Health website to see guidelines for healthy eating.
Visit Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website to read about the physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians.
See the Cancer Australia’s breast cancer risk factors to read more about risk factors associated with breast cancer.
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