Lifestyle choices can reduce women’s risk of breast cancer


Making certain lifestyle choices can help lower your chance of getting breast cancer.

Of the roughly quarter of a million cases of breast cancer each year in the U-S, about ten percent are thought to be unavoidable.

“So those over which we have no control are genetics. Genetic makeup. Whether we’re BRCA positive, BRCA negative. Whether we’re male or female,” Commonwealth Health Breast Cancer Surgeon Eric Burdge, MD said. 

But Dr. Burdge says there are many more risk factors directly under our control.

For example, new moms who decide to nurse their babies can lower the risk.

“Studies in literature have borne out that those females that breast-feed have a lower risk in terms of developing breast cancer,” Dr. Burdge said.

 Dr. Burdge says the effect is “significant.” The reason appears to be a reduction in hormones associated with breast cancer cell growth. He recommends women breast feed for at least six months.

The age at which a woman gives birth is another identifiable risk factor.

“For example, if you have your children before age 30, you have a lower risk of developing breast cancer,” Dr. Burdge said.

Women considered to be obese have a higher risk of breast cancer.

“They have a lot more estrogen in the body. If they have a tumor that is estrogen receptor positive, it’s craving and taking in all that estrogen,” Dr. Burdge said. 

It’s recommended for women to keep their Body Mass Index (BMI) at 24 or lower. Dr. Burdge also urges women not to smoke and to avoid being around smoke to lower their breast cancer risk.

“First hand smoking, so direct smoking, impacts more of those women that are pre-menopausal whereas second hand smoke, that means being in the environment where someone is smoking, impacts more of the post-menopausal women – those women over the age of 50,” Dr. Burdge said. 

Alcohol consumption is yet another breast cancer risk factor under your control. Dr. Burdge recommends limiting adult beverages.

“If you have to have your alcohol intake, one drink a day,” he said. 

Dr. Burdge says having a half glass of wine a day increases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by six percent. Three glasses of alcohol per day means the breast cancer risk jumps to 21 percent.

Another risk factor is working a night shift.

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