There are things you can do to help lower your risk of breast cancer, including
some lifestyle choices. Learn more to inform your decisions around risk factors
that are within your control.
- Alcohol use: Use of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of getting
- Being overweight or obese: Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher
risk of breast cancer, especially for women after menopause and if the weight gain
took place during adulthood.
- Lack of exercise: Studies show that exercise reduces breast cancer risk.
- Not having children or having them later in life: Women who have not had
children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher risk of
breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once and at an earlier age reduces breast
cancer risk. The reason may be because pregnancy reduces a woman's total number
of lifetime menstrual cycles.
- Recent use of birth control pills: Studies have found that women who are
using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women
who have never used them. Women who stopped using the pill years ago
do not seem to have any increased risk. Get more information specific to you from
your doctor about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT): Postmenopausal hormone therapy (also
known as hormone replacement therapy) has been used for many years to help relieve
symptoms of the menopause and to help prevent thinning of the bones, or osteoporosis.
There are two main types of PHT:
- For women who have a uterus, doctors generally prescribe oestrogen and progesterone,
known as combined PHT. Oestrogen alone can increase the risk of cancer of the uterus,
so progesterone is added to help prevent this.
- For women who no longer have a uterus (those who've had a hysterectomy), oestrogen
alone can be prescribed. This is commonly known as oestrogen replacement therapy
- Combined PHT: It has become clear that the use of combined PHT for several
years or more increases the risk of breast cancer and may increase the chances of
dying of breast cancer. Breast cancer may also be discovered at an advanced stage,
perhaps because PHT seems to reduce the effectiveness of mammograms. Five years
after stopping PHT, the breast cancer risk has been shown to drop back to normal.
- ORT: The use of oestrogen alone does not seem to increase the risk of developing
breast cancer much, if at all. But when used for more than 10 years, some studies
have found that ORT increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
- Not breast-feeding: Some studies have shown that breastfeeding slightly lowers
breast cancer risk, especially if the breastfeeding lasts 1½ to 2 years. This could
be because breastfeeding lowers a woman's total number of menstrual periods, in
the same way as pregnancy does.