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Can You Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with over 55,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Some of us are more likely to be affected by breast cancer than others, but there are some risk factors that we can control.

Who is at Risk of Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer can affect anyone, but some of us are more likely to be affected than others:

  • Women are more likely to be affected by breast cancer than men.

  • Breast cancer is more likely to occur in older people, with 80% of cases occurring in women over the age of 50. Most men who develop breast cancer are over 60.

  • Women who start menstruating earlier (before age 12) or begin menopause later (after age 52) are slightly more likely to be affected.

  • Some people have naturally denser breast tissue, which increases the chance of developing breast cancer.

  • A family history of breast cancer can increase the risks, especially if you have a parent or sibling who was affected at a young age.

If these risk factors apply to you then your chances of developing breast cancer will be higher. However, it doesn’t mean that you will definitely be affected and there are some steps you can take to reduce the risks and protect your health.

Lifestyle Factors and Breast Cancer

You can’t do anything to change your age or family medical history, but there are some other risk factors for breast cancer that you can control. Our lifestyle has a big impact on our health, including the risk of developing cancer. You can reduce the chances of developing breast cancer by:

  • Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink as it is associated with a higher risk of cancer, including breast cancer

  • Lose any excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight can increase the chances of developing breast cancer, especially after the menopause

  • Get regular exercise as it will help you to manage your weight and improves your general health

  • Avoid smoking as it can increase the risk of many types of cancer, including breast cancer

Although a healthy lifestyle can’t eliminate the risk of breast cancer, it can reduce the chances that you will be affected. It can also reduce the risks of other types of cancer and health problems such as heart disease.

Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention

As well as taking steps to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, it is also important to ensure that any problems are spotted as soon as possible. The sooner that breast cancer is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat. You should check your breasts at least once a month for any changes such as lumps, soreness, dimpled texture, or discharge from the nipples that could be signs of breast cancer. It is also important to attend breast cancer screening when invited by your doctor.

You can also ask for advice if you’re concerned about your breast cancer risk, for example due to a family history of this condition. The doctor may recommend genetic screening or preventative treatment in order to reduce the risks of breast cancer. You can also get more advice on how to reduce the risks of breast cancer by making changes to your lifestyle.


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