The good news is that all women can take important steps to improve their health and reduce their risk for breast cancer. But even very health-conscious people without known risk factors can be diagnosed with this disease.

Tips to reduce your risk.[1]

Diet and Nutrition – Being overweight is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. It is best to stay at a healthy weight and Body Mass Index (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) and to eat a diet that contains lots of vegetables and fruits.

Exercise – Brisk walking for 1 hour a day can reduce risk by more than 15%. The American Cancer Society recommends that you engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (that is 30 minutes or greater, 5 times a week).

Avoid hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to reduce symptoms of menopause – Use only if absolutely necessary; use for as short a time as possible, and discuss alternatives to HRT with your doctor. HRT also increases the risk of blood clots, which can cause death due to pulmonary embolism, stroke or heart attack.

Reduce Alcohol Use – Regular consumption of one or more drinks a day for women is associated with a slight increase in risk of breast cancer. The more alcohol that’s consumed, the greater the risk.

Don’t Smoke – Tobacco consumption is known to cause cancer in humans. Smoking has not been directly linked to increased risk for breast cancer, but It is an established risk factor for lung cancer. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke should be avoided, particularly during childhood, puberty, pregnancy and when breastfeeding

Reproductive History

  • If you have biological children, consider breastfeeding if you can. Try breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and up to one year or longer, as mutually desired by both mom and child.
  • For five years after each full-term pregnancy, be especially vigilant in knowing what is normal for your breasts, and notice any changes. Report any changes to your OB-GYN or primary care doctor right away. During pregnancy and after each child is born, there is a short-term increased risk for what is known as “pregnancy-associated breast cancer.”

Check your Vitamin D levels – Many women are lacking in this vitamin. A Vitamin D deficiency can be associated with breast cancer risk. The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IUs per day for people aged 1 to 70, and 800 IU over the age of 70 years.[4] You should speak with your doctor before starting any supplements. You can learn more here:


Learn about Environmental Exposures
A wide variety of environmental exposures and everyday chemicals have been demonstrated to cause mammary tumors in animals, suggesting they could possibly increase breast cancer risk in women. While scientists continue to study and learn more about how these chemicals affect humans, there is currently enough information to support reducing our exposures.

  • Lessen exposure to fumes from gasoline and to exhaust from diesel or other fuel combustion. Don’t idle your car. Use electric instead of gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed whackers.
  • Use a ventilation fan when cooking and limit consumption of burned or charred food.
  • Don’t buy furniture with polyurethane foam or ask for foam not treated with flame retardants.
  • Avoid stain-resistant rugs, furniture and fabrics.
  • Find a dry-cleaner that doesn’t use perchloroethylene (or ‘PERC’ for short) or other solvents; ask for “wet cleaning” as an alternative.
  • Purchase a solid carbon block drinking water filter.
  • Reduce exposures to chemicals in house dust: remove shoes at the door; vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (or ‘HEPA’) filter; and clean with wet rags and mops.

Reference: 2014 Silent Spring Institute Study

Sources & Resources

  1. Society, A.C., Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. 2013.
  2. Hunt, B.R., S. Whitman, and M.S. Hurlbert, Increasing Black:White disparities in breast cancer mortality in the 50 largest cities in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol, 2014. 38(2): p. 118-23.
  3. Wild, B.W.S.a.C.P., World Cancer Report 2014 2014.
  4. Ross, A.C., et al., The 2011 report on dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: what clinicians need to know. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2011. 96(1): p. 53-8.
  5. Silverstein, M.J., et al., Special report: Consensus conference III. Image-detected breast cancer: state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment. J Am Coll Surg, 2009. 209(4): p. 504-20.

This website was created for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Be sure to partner with your medical provider to develop the best personal care plan for you. Adapted from the American Cancer Society, 2013-2014 Breast Cancer Facts & Figures.