Can I reduce my risk of getting breast cancer?

Identifying risk factors can help us see ways we can reduce our risk of developing breast cancer. However, in many cases the increased or decreased risk from these factors is very small.

Try not to become worried about risk factors you cannot change. Breast cancer is a complex disease caused by a combination of many different things, including genetics and environmental factors.

The three main risk factors are not something we can control. However, some risk factors can be influenced by lifestyle choices and this may also help improve your general health, for example:

  • maintaining a healthy weight, especially after the menopause
  • doing regular exercise
  • not drinking more alcohol than the recommended daily amount
  • limiting your intake of saturated fats.

Remember, sticking to these lifestyle choices may not prevent you from getting breast cancer so consider the effect your choices may have before making any decisions. For example:

  • having a baby at a young age would have a far greater impact on your life in general than on reducing your breast cancer risk
  • you may decide after talking to your GP that the benefits of taking HRT outweigh the potential small increase in breast cancer risk.

When thinking about lifestyle changes, decide what’s best for you at this particular time in your life. You might want to talk with your GP or practice nurse for information and advice.

Your individual risk is unique and can change over time – for example, as you get older or if your family history changes (by someone in your family being diagnosed with cancer).

Last reviewed: February 2015
Next planned review begins 2017

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Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.