How Can I Reduce the Risk?
The good news is that some of the risk factors mentioned in the previous section can be modified in order reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Furthermore, breast screening allows for early detection of breast cancer with high cure rates. Women aged 40+ should consider having a digital mammogram on an annual basis.
- Avoid becoming overweight after the menopause.
- Undertake regular exercise and increase physical activity (min. 1 hour per week).
- Minimise alcohol intake – try not to drink more than 6 units of alcohol per week (equivalent to one glass of wine per day).
- Reduce the intake of animal fat and red meat (esp. overcooked red meat)
- Eat more fish (excluding farmed salmon)
- Replace full-fat dairy products with low-fat dairy products
- Increase the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables especially: cranberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, and pomegranates. These fruits can be also taken as fresh juice drinks with no added artificial ingredients (e.g. fresh smoothies).
- Increase the intake of green tea.
- Increase the intake of olive oil.
Comment: There is no credible scientific evidence that underarm cosmetics and low-fat dairy products increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Soya products seem to be neutral i.e. they cause neither harm nor benefit regarding breast cancer.
- Avoid taking HRT after the menopause and try to use alternatives to HRT.
- Avoid the continual use of the oral contraceptive pill for the more than 4 years, especially if you have a significant family history of breast cancer.
- Try to have your first child before the age of 30 years and avoid pregnancy after the age of 40 years.
- Try breast feeding for at least six months.
Other Ways (for Women at High Risk)
- Anti-oestrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen (a breast cancer drug) and raloxifene (used to protect post-menopausal women from developing osteoporosis) have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Preventative mastectomy (removal of the whole breast) seems to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 90% in high-risk women, such as those who carry breast cancer genes. Preventive oophorectomy (removal of an ovary or ovaries) also decreases the risk of developing breast cancer in BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene carriers. Immediate breast reconstruction can be carried out at the time of mastectomy.
- Recent research suggests that aspirin-like drugs, such as Ibuprofen, may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Further research is needed before these drugs can be recommended for breast cancer prevention.
- A new breast cancer drug called Arimidex has been found to be better than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer in the opposite breast among postmenopausal women with breast cancer, but further research is needed. The author believes that the following dietary measures may also reduce the risk of breast cancer:
- Increased consumption of antioxidants. These include the vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals selenium, zinc and sulphur. They are found in fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Increased intake of fibre. It is thought that a high-fibre diet may reduce the breast cancer risk by binding dietary oestrogen (present in food) in the bowel and preventing it from being absorbed into the blood stream. Fibre is plentiful in cereals, brown bread, fruits and vegetables.
- Reduced intake of animal fat and red meat. Replace red meat with fish – it is a good source of protein and antioxidants. If you do eat red meat, try to avoid over-cooking it.
- Increased intake of red cherries, grapes, pomegranates, berries, apples, watercress, mushrooms, curcumon, onions, garlic, cabbage, broccoli and green tea.
What is the Purpose of Breast Screening?
The aim of breast screening is to detect breast cancer at an early stage in women who appear well and do not have any symptoms of the disease. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more likely it is to be treatable.
The screening methods currently used include:
- Self-examination of the breasts.
- Breast examination by a doctor.
- Mammography (breast X-ray).
- The Normal Breast
- What is Breast Cancer?
- What are the different Types of Breast Cancer?
- Am I at Risk of Getting Breast Cancer?
- What Does 'Increased Risk' Mean to Me?
- How Can I Reduce the Risk?
- Breast Screening
- Breast Lumps
- What Happens at the Breast Clinic?
- Emotional Reaction to a Diagnosis of Breast Cancer
- What are the Treatment Options for Breast Cancer?
- Radiotherapy - What is it and How it is Used
- Chemotherapy - What is it and How it is Used
- Hormone Therapy - What is it and How it is Used
- Treatment of Non-invasive Breast Cancer
- The Follow-up Clinic