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Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute

Steps to prevent breast cancer that can also help your heart

Posted by: Elizabeth Horenkamp, MD on 1/7/2014 3:36:12 PM

Steps you take to keep your heart healthy – still the #1 killer of women – can also help prevent breast cancer. And breastfeeding, a proven benefit to children’s health, also supports long-term breast health.

Breast cancer prevention by diet, exercise, breastfeeding, and by a new addition to hormone therapy was a focus of the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium -- an annual international forum on the latest breast cancer research, prevention and treatment.

Although there were no "blockbuster" results reported, Jack Cuzick, PhD, a prominent English researcher, emphasized 4 areas women can explore to lower their breast cancer risk.

Weight and alcohol
After menopause, every kilogram (approximately 2 pounds) a woman is overweight increases her breast cancer risk by about 1 percent. Drinking more than one or two alcoholic beverages a day also increases risk. Conversely, obtaining or maintaining a healthy body weight and limiting alcohol intake lowers risk.

Women in a previous study who exercised moderately for three hours a week reduced their risk almost as much as any of the available drug therapies.

Breastfeeding for a year, especially if you’ve breastfed multiple children, has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk.

Hormone therapy
Cuzick studied the ability of anastrazole, a drug used to treat breast cancer, to prevent the disease in women who’ve never had breast cancer but are at increased risk due to family history or other noncancerous breast findings. The incidence of breast cancer in women who took anastrazole was 50 percent lower than women at similar risk who took a placebo. If you have questions about this or other medications to prevent breast cancer, talk to your doctor.

To calculate your risk for breast cancer, take our online risk assessment.

Elizabeth Horenkamp, MD, is a medical oncologist with LG Health Physicians Hematology & Medical Oncology. She has a special interest in breast cancer, general oncology, and hematology. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. 

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