Breast Cancer Prevention

There is no guarantee that breast cancer can be prevented.

However there are lifestyle choices a person can make which may reduce the chances of getting this disease.

Breast Cancer And Body Weight

Breast cancer research has looked at various aspects of body weight and its effect on breast cancer.

These studies have focussed on researching weight related factors including:

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Shape
  • Weight Distribution Around The Body
  • The Age Any Weight Gain Occurred

For example, some research has looked at body shape in which women are classed as 'apple shaped', where proportionally more weight is on their stomach, or 'pear shaped' where more weight is around their hips.

The results from studies on weight and breast cancer suggest that body weight is a higher risk factor for breast cancer in post menopausal women who acquired weight gain in adulthood (after 18-20 years).

If a person is classed as being over weight or obese , reducing body weight is one way of increasing the chances of preventing breast cancer in post menopausal women.

In pre menopausal women the opposite is found; being overweight before the menopause gives a below average risk of breast cancer. This is due to pre and post menopausal levels of the hormone oestrogen in the body.

Pre menopausal women ovulate less if they are overweight; cells in the breast are exposed less to oestrogen. Post menopause, body fat levels are linked to oestrogen with overweight post menopausal women experiencing above average oestrogen levels. Higher levels of oestrogen are linked to breast cancer.

Find out if you are overweight with our bmi calculator.

Exercise And Breast Cancer

There is evidence which suggests exercise can prevent up to 20% of breast cancer cases in women.

A study from the Seattle based, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center which involved more than 74,000 women, looked at how frequently they exercised and whether they had exercised when younger. The results showed that the groups who regularly exercised had reduced their risk of breast cancer by 20%.

Moderate exercise 5 times a week had the greatest effect on preventing breast cancer. Exercise was also shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer even in women in higher risk categories who have a family history of this disease or who are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

However the study also suggests that benefits from exercise are greater in the low weight to normal weight groups. Whilst some preventative benefits were found in the slightly overweight group, exercise did not prevent breast cancer in women classed as obese. Overwight & obese women will receive these benefits once weight is lowered to a healthy level.

Find out if you are overweight with our bmi calculator.

Alcohol And Breast Cancer

This is evidence which suggests reducing alcohol intake can prevent breast cancer. Large studies of people with breast cancer and the levels of alcohol they have drunk, have shown that there is a direct link between the volume of alcohol drunk and the risk of breast cancer.

A study by Cancer Research UK which looked at breast cancer data from studies on women in the developed world found that alcohol accounts for approximately 4% of breast cancer cases.

They found that the greater the volume of alcohol drunk the higher the risk of breast cancer.

Reducing alcohol intake can help prevent breast cancer. 14 units of alcohol a week or less is recommended by the cancer charity 'Cancer Help' ( 1 unit equates to one glass of wine, a measure of spirits or half a pint of beer).

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) & Breast Cancer

Avoiding HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is another preventative step which reduces the risk of breast cancer. Cancer Research UK have shown that HRT which combines both oestrogen and progesterone hormones carries even greater risk of causing breast cancer than oestrogen HRT. Before this study it was thought that only oestrogen based HRT increased the risk of breast cancer.

Women should investigate potential risks and benefits before deciding to use HRT. When women stop taking HRT, their risk of breast cancer goes back to normal within 5 years.

Regular Breast Screening

Screening for breast cancer on a regular basis is an effective way of preventing breast cancer. Breast screening is particularly effective in preventing the development of early stage breast cancer into a more serious form.

Regular examinations increases the chances of catching & treating early breast cancer before it has chance to develop further.

Women treated for breast cancer during the early stages have a much greater a chance of making a full recovery and go on to lead full and long lasting lives.