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Ways to reduce breast cancer risk

Incidence of breast cancer is increasing year on year.

And while there are many risk factors we have no control over, there are others which can be influenced.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to reduce your chance of breast cancer and many other diseases.

Reduce your alcohol intake

Research has shown a strong link between alcohol and the risk of developing breast cancer, or breast cancer returning. To reduce your risk, try to limit your alcohol intake to two standard drinks a day.

Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life

Women who put on a lot of weight in adulthood, particularly after menopause, may have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Be active

Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of breast cancer. The exact amount of physical activity needed is not yet clear. However studies show that moderate exercise, like a brisk walk, can be enough to reduce your risk. The more you do, the greater the benefits.

Have children early and breastfeed if you can

Not having children or having children later in life can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. The reverse is true as well. Having more children early in life and breastfeeding (for 12 months or more) provides long-lasting protection from breast cancer.

Eat 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. Research recommends sticking to low-fat dairy products, limiting how much red meat and sugar you eat to prevent increasing your risk of breast cancer.

Try not to stress

There is no conclusive evidence that stress causes breast cancer. However, people under stress often develop certain behaviours (such as smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol) which increases their risk for cancer.

Avoid long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Many women use HRT to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and/or osteoporosis and to boost female hormones that lower with age. However, evidence suggests that long-term use of HRT increases the risk of breast cancer. Once HRT use ends, the risk returns to normal levels.

Don’t smoke

A landmark US study demonstrated a strong association between active smoking and breast cancer risk. This was specifically evident for women who had started smoking at a very early age and before their first pregnancy. Smoking should always be avoided to prevent a range of diseases and to maximise health and wellbeing.