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How can I help protect myself against breast cancer?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You can do plenty to detect, survive and prevent breast cancer.
  • Regular breast-cancer screenings (starting at age 40, or sooner if you have a family history) slash your risk for fatal breast cancer by 30%.
  • Survival rates with great quality of life are increasing yearly, thanks to earlier detection and better treatments.
  • Watching your weight, eating your broccoli and cauliflower (and other cruciferous vegetables), being active every day, having at most one drink daily, and -- if you're a new mom -- breastfeeding prevents more than a third of breast cancers.
Here are a couple of ways to one-up breast cancer:
  • Personalize your prevention. If you're at above-average risk, plenty of factors can lower it. In addition to staying slim and active, not smoking and eating smart (lots of veggies, no fried foods), talk to your doctor about taking two baby aspirins a day and 1,000 IU of vitamin D3. Earlier and more frequent screenings and getting super-serious about lifestyle changes -- even considering a cancer-prevention drug, such as tamoxifen -- could also be powerful moves for you.
  • Go for a triple play. Many women worry far more about breast cancer than heart disease, even though cardiac trouble is the number one threat for women. But, managing your weight and waist size, exercising and choosing foods that cool inflammation and are blood-sugar-friendly lower your risk for both -- and smack down type 2 diabetes! You know the eats: fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grains. The connections don't stop there. After menopause, nearly one in six cases of breast cancer is linked to excess body fat, as is diabetes. Women with diabetes are at far higher risk of heart disease and (this is new) at higher risk for breast cancer.
If you and your doctor decide breast cancer is a significantly bigger threat for you than heart disease, sharply limit or eliminate beer, wine and cocktails. Even though a drink a day is heart-protective, not drinking definitely reduces breast cancer risk. Both the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research now endorse this step. They believe the extra cancer risk of one daily drink outweighs its heart benefits.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.