Preventing Breast Cancer

There is nothing you can do to eliminate your risk of breast cancer, but the following factors may have some influence on your risk.


While moderate alcohol intake may help reduce the risk of heart disease, drinking alcohol raises the risk of developing breast cancer. Studies show that just one drink (four ounces) a day may raise estrogen levels in post-menopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy. Women who have two to five alcoholic drinks a day are 1 1/2 times more likely to develop breast cancer than those who don’t drink.

Birth Control Pills

Research indicates that taking birth control pills does not increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of birth control pills.

Breast Feeding

While there is not a strong link, some studies suggest that breast feeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if breast feeding is continued for 1 1/2 to two years.


Women who have children before the age of 30 have a slightly lower risk of developing breast cancer.


There is much controversy concerning the role of diet, specifically, consumption of dietary fat and the risk of developing breast cancer. Some clinical studies show that decreasing dietary fat or increasing dietary fiber has no effect on lowering breast cancer risk, while others show a distinct link between type of fat consumed, such as saturated fat, and breast cancer risk.

One clinical study found that it is the total amount of fat consumed regardless of type — saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated — that may increase risk.


There is no clear link between environmental pollutants and breast cancer. Ongoing research into the effects of exposure to pesticides, herbicides, plastics, paper, detergents, textiles, cosmetics, hair colorings and other common products will help us better understand how our environment affects our health.


The American Cancer Society states that “vigorous physical activity and maintenance of a healthy body weight” are associated with lower breast cancer risk. It may be that exercise reduces estrogen production by burning calories and reducing body fat.

One clinical study found that women who participated in seven or more hours per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity had an 18 percent breast cancer risk reduction. Another study showed a 39 percent risk reduction if a woman was active in both her occupation and recreational activities, with even greater risk reduction in leaner women.


The link between cigarette smoking and the development of breast cancer has not been firmly established. Some studies show that there is no association between current smoking and breast cancer risk. The highest risk is in women who previously smoked and quit.

However, smoking negatively impacts your health and increases the risk for many cancers as well as heart disease. If you smoke, quit.


The more overweight a woman is, especially after menopause, the greater her risk for developing breast cancer. The connection between weight and breast cancer risk is affected by whether a woman gained weight as an adult or has been overweight since childhood.

Talk with your health care provider about weight concerns.

Breast Implants

There is no association between breast implants and breast cancer.