Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor and anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective factor. Some risk factors for breast cancer can be avoided, but some cannot. For example, both smoking and inheriting certain genetic mutations are risk factors for some types of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. While there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer there are things you can do to help lower your chance of getting breast cancer.

The following are risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Older age
  • A personal history of breast cancer or benign (noncancer) breast disease
  • Inherited risk of breast cancer (ex: a known mutation on a BRCA gene)
  • Dense breasts
  • Exposure of breast tissue to estrogen made in the body
  • Taking hormone therapy for symptoms of menopause
  • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest
  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol

The following are protective factors for breast cancer:

  • Less exposure of breast tissue to estrogen made by the body
  • Taking estrogen-only hormone therapy after hysterectomy, selective estrogen receptor modulators, or aromatase inhibitors and inactivators
  • Risk-reducing mastectomy
  • Ovarian ablation
  • Getting enough exercise

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Please remember this information is intended for educational purposes only and should not substitute medical advice from a healthcare provider.