A recent report by Carlo La Vecchia, head of the department of epidemiology at the University of Milan, indicated that if women were to eat less and exercise more, their risk of developing breast cancer would be reduced by as much as 30 percent. Their findings, which are in general agreement with multiple other studies, indicate that regular, vigorous exercise and maintenance of normal weight are associated with significant reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. This is a very important finding and deserves the attention it is receiving.  It is common for both physicians and patients to blame cancer diagnoses on unavoidable influences, such as family history, or some yet to be identified environmental factor, such as DDT or Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR).

Thinking of breast cancer as a disease that may be influenced by our behavior is a positive way of dealing with the issue.  Since being a woman is the single biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer, and the average life­time risk for a woman is one in eight, all women should be aware of the things they can do to lower their  risk.  The data seems very convincing: maintaining a normal weight and exercising regularly not only provide protection against heart disease, but also reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.  Other risk reduction factors:

  • Limit alcohol: A link exists between alcohol consumption and the risk of developing breast cancer.  It has been estimated that women who drink more than 3 ounces of alcohol per week (wine, beer, mixed drinks) may increase their risk for developing breast cancer by more than 10 percent. Higher levels of intact of alcohol are associated with further increase of risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Limit hormone exposure after menopause: Although short-term use of hormone replacement after menopause is safe, long-term use of hormones increases certain risks.
  • High Fat Diets: There is data demonstrating that reducing the fat content of your diet results in modest reductions in breast cancer risk.  It also helps to reduce your risk of other diseases, such as heart disease, and helps with weight control.
  • Menopause: Menopausal women should consult with their physicians about the pro and cons hormone replacement treatment.
  • Risk Assessment: Women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer should be evaluated in a risk assessment program. Learn more about our Risk Assessment program.