Italian researchers recently analyzed the lifestyle habits of more than 5,000 women, including smoking, exercise, diet and alcohol consumption. The participants also reported the age that they got their first period, reached menopause and had their first child, as well as if they took medications such as hormone therapy and oral contraception.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that some of the women who had non-modifiable risk factors’including family history and being over age 50’were able to lower their risk for the disease, thanks to drinking less, exercising more and having a healthy body weight.
Dr. Judith Hugh, a doctor and pathologist at the University of Alberta, says most breast cancers are linked to modifiable risk factors. Adds Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, past director of the Mayo Clinic Breast Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and chief editor of the Best Health Women’s Health Encyclopedia, ‘Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, even after menopause, have been shown to reduce the risk for breast cancer in women who carry the breast cancer gene.’
Knowing the risk factors you can change and those you can’t is important, says Lois Harrison, director of health promotion for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in the Prairies and Northwest Territories region.
She suggests talking about your risk factors with your healthcare provider so that you can create a plan for early detection.