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Breast cancer prevention

How can I prevent breast cancer?

In the same way that all the causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, it is not clear which prevention measures may help prevent breast cancer.

Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as inherited genetic mutations. However, there's some evidence lifestyle changes may help. Cancer Research UK says experts believe one in 10 cancer cases in the UK, including breast cancer, are caused by unhealthy diets. Research published in the British Journal of Cancer, found 45% of all cancers in men and 40% in women could be prevented.

Nutrition and diet

Diet and nutrition appears to play a role in breast cancer prevention. This is not about special 'anti- cancer' diet plans, but eating a healthy balanced diet that's rich in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Keeping within recommended limits for alcohol consumption and stopping smoking is also thought to help.


Being overweight or obese may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer after the menopause so achieving a healthy weight is recommended. As well as healthy eating, regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to a fifth. At least 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise is recommended.


Although the reasons are not fully understood, there's evidence that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who have not breastfed. Breastfeeding affects oestrogen levels and ovulation, which may play a part.

Risk-reducing surgery and medication

Some women with a close family history of breast cancer may decide to have genetic testing for genetic faults that are responsible for some breast cancers. After a positive test, some women decide to have both breasts removed to reduce their risk.

For some women at high or moderate risk of developing breast cancer, drugs such as tamoxifen and anastrozole, may be offered to try and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 17, 2017

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