How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?

One of the current concerns of medicine is how to prevent breast cancer, as this disease is very prevalent in the world. Learn more.
How Can I Prevent Breast Cancer?

Last update: 24 April, 2023

The high incidence of cancer worldwide, both in women and men, has made it one of the most feared diseases. Breast cancer is one of the oncological types that generates the most concern, however, there are a series of recommendations that you can follow to prevent breast cancer.

According to data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer, malignant breast tumors are the most common in Western women. In fact, around 33,307 people a year are diagnosed in Spain alone. Of course, it’s important to remember that men can also suffer from this disease.

It’s important to know that the mammary gland is made up of lobules and ducts, so an alteration can arise in any of these parts. In addition, it can also be divided into carcinoma in situ and metastatic, when it’s localized or has already spread to other tissues, respectively.

The causes of breast cancer

Unfortunately, a specific cause for this disease hasn’t yet been established. Experts know that it appears due to an abnormal multiplication of cells in the lobules or mammary ducts that become malignant due to various factors.

Today, the importance of heredity in this disease has been demonstrated, as up to 10% of breast cancer cases may be due to a genetic alteration. In this regard, two heritable genes related to breast cancer, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, have been identified.

A woman gets a mammogram to prevent breast cancer.
Women are the most affected by this oncological disease, but men also present it, although to a lesser extent.

Risk factor’s

In 90% of cases, the disease doesn’t have a genetic origin, so its appearance is due to the interaction of various risk factors. Many of them are related to lifestyle and can be modified.

However, some are linked to the human genome, so nothing can be done about it. In this regard, among the various risk factors that contribute to the appearance of breast cancer are the following:

  • Advanced age.
  • Female sex: Only 2% of breast cancer cases are registered in men.
  • First menstruation at an early age and menopause at an advanced age.
  • A family history of breast cancer.
  • Women with high breast density and no children.
  • Using hormone therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause.
  • Pregnancy after 30 years.
  • Obesity.
  • Consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Physical inactivity.

How to prevent breast cancer?

Currently, there’s no 100% effective way to prevent breast cancer. It’s important to consider that it’s a disease that doesn’t have a single cause, so there are no specific steps to follow to avoid it.

The National Cancer Institute of the United States developed a useful tool to estimate the risk of breast cancer in the next 5 years and up to 90 years of age. Although only an estimate, this survey will give women an idea of whether or not a lifestyle change is necessary.

1. Maintain a healthy weight

One of the best ways to prevent breast cancer is to avoid being overweight and maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. This is because when the ovaries stop working, most of the estrogen in a woman comes from fat tissue.

The more fatty tissue you have, the higher the estrogen levels in your body. High levels of this hormone in the blood have been associated with breast cancer and other types of cancer in women. Therefore, having a healthy diet with limited fats is a great way to maintain a healthy body.

2. Increase physical activity

Regular physical activity has great health benefits. Although it’s not yet known exactly how exercise helps prevent this disease, it’s believed to be related to weight, hormonal balance, and reduced inflammation.

In this regard, it’s advisable to perform between 30 and 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily. The performance of 75 to 150 weekly minutes of intense physical activity is also recommended.

3. Avoid alcoholic beverages

It’s proven that the intake of alcoholic beverages is linked to the appearance of various types of cancer. The mechanism by which alcohol can cause cancer will depend on its location, although in general terms, it’s related to an imbalance in the body.

In the specific case of breast cancer, alcohol increases estrogen levels in the blood and with continuous consumption, its effect will be greater. Therefore, the less alcohol is consumed, the less likely a person is to suffer from this disease.

4. Maintain prolonged breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your little ones for a year or more not only brings benefits for the baby but also for the mother. In addition to nurturing the child and creating a better maternal bond, with this simple action, you can prevent the development of breast cancer.

The study of this factor has been difficult, as such prolonged breastfeeding isn’t, despite being one of the WHO recommendations. However, it’s believed that this action decreases the number of menstrual cycles a woman will have, thereby reducing the time a woman will be exposed to estrogen.

5. Avoid hormonal therapies during menopause

Different therapies with estrogen and progesterone have been used for many years to reduce the symptoms of menopause. However, they greatly increase hormonal levels in the blood, which increases the probability of suffering from breast cancer and heart conditions.

In fact, the longer the hormones are taken, the greater the risk. Women who received hormone therapy may take up to 3 years to normalize their predisposition to the disease.

A doctor reads a mammogram.
Mammograms performed with the periodicity indicated by the protocols help early detection.

Early detection of breast cancer is essential

Although there’s no effective way to prevent breast cancer 100%, making the changes described above can greatly reduce its occurrence. In addition, it’s also advisable to have an annual medical check-up in search of any abnormalities.

At the same time, it’s of vital importance that women know their breasts to detect an alteration in time. In this regard, it’s crucial to perform a breast self-exam once a month in search of any strange lump. Remember that early detection increases the chance of survival.

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