6 things you can do now to reduce your breast cancer risk

October has arrived! As temperatures decrease and fall foliage emerges, you’ll start seeing the fall colors taking over social media and wardrobes everywhere. But there is one color you simply won’t be able to avoid this month, and for good reason—pink. Breast cancer awareness month is here, and people everywhere will be sporting pink in tribute.

At the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, we recognize this month as a time to celebrate breast cancer survivors, remember those we have lost to this disease and give people the tools they need to take charge of their health.

When diagnosed early and treated before it spreads, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%. We’ve put these simple tips together to inspire awareness, knowledge and lifestyle changes that prioritize your health to increase cancer prevention and early detection.
Do more than just wear pink this month. Share these tips with 3 women in your life to spread prevention and early detection information that can save lives.

1. Get smart: Know your risk

Prevention has to start with knowledge. Women at an increased risk of breast cancer may need to start screening earlier or be screened more frequently than women of average risk. You might be at an increased risk if you:

  • Are overweight or obese or are not physically active
  • Have mutations of BRCA-1, BRCA-2 or PALB-2 genes
  • Have a family or personal history of breast, colorectal or ovarian cancer
  • Began menstrual period before 12 or began menopause after 55
  • Have never had children or had your first child after age 30
  • Are currently using or have recently used birth control pills
  • Have used hormone replacement therapy (with estrogen and progesterone) for more than 10 years

2. Have “The Talk” (no, not that talk)

With Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, take these shared moments to talk with your relatives about your family history of cancer. This is an easy step to take to learn about your cancer risk. Remember to ask about age of diagnosis—your risk increases if your mother was diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50.

3. Get active

Staying active is key to staying healthy. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can make a big impact on your health and is an easy way to reduce your cancer risk. Being physically active can also help you to lower your risk by maintaining a healthy weight.

4. If you smoke, stop. If you drink, limit your intake.

This one’s pretty straightforward. For years we’ve known the health costs that come with smoking. Smoking can weaken the immune system, one of our bodies’ best defenses against cancer, and can damage or change a cell’s DNA, which can lead to the growth of a tumor. Quitting isn’t always easy. For tips to help you or someone you love quit smoking, visit our website.

Drinking alcohol is linked to breast and several other cancers. Once ingested, your body breaks it down into a chemical that can damage or change a cell’s DNA, potentially leading to the growth of a tumor. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that if you drink, you limit your consumption to one drink a day for women and two a day for men.

5. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear—get screened

Screening for breast cancer can seem scary, but the sooner it’s found, the sooner it can be treated and the better your odds for remission. From ages 25-39, talk with your health care professional at least once every three years for risk assessment, risk reduction counseling and a clinical breast exam. At age 40, begin getting screened annually.

If you have a personal family history or are at increased risk of breast cancer, all of this could be different for you. Talk to your health care professional about your risk and assess your options together.

Not sure which exam or screening is right for you? Check out 4 breast cancer screening tests you should know about.

6. Check yourself regularly

Know your body so you know when it’s changing. Between regular screenings or exams, pay attention for the following:

  • A lump, hard knot or thickening in the breast
  • A lump under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of a breast
  • Nipple pain, tenderness or discharge, including bleeding
  • Itchiness, scales, soreness or rash on the nipple
  • A nipple turning inward or inverted
  • A change in color and texture (dimpling, puckering or redness)
  • A breast that feels warm or swollen

If something feels different or off, don’t be afraid to speak up or ask your health care professional questions.

Do more than just wear pink this month! Share these tips with 3 women in your life to spread prevention and early detection information that could save lives.