Check out the new California section

Can breast cancer be prevented?

HealthDiseases and IllnessesBreast CancerCancerFitnessHealth Organizations

Eating healthy foods and staying fit can help prevent breast cancer. But breast cancer may strike despite your best efforts to follow a healthy lifestyle.

So it is essential to schedule regular breast cancer screenings. The earlier a cancerous tumor is detected in your breast, the greater your chance of survival.

Lifestyle Risks You Can Control

  • Being obese or overweight.

  • Diet high in saturated fat.

  • More than 2 alcoholic drinks per day.

  • Too little physical activity.

  • Taking birth control pills for more than 10 years if under 35.

Additional Risks

  • Early menstruation; late menopause.

  • First child at an older age or not having given birth.

  • Age, especially over 65.

  • Moderately increased risk: family history of breast cancer, especially mother or sister; personal history of breast cancer of benign (non- cancer) breast disease; dense breast tissue.

  • High risk: past radiation therapy to the chest; hormone treatments; gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2; a parent, brother, sister or child with these gene mutations; Li-Fraumeni, Cowden, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome in self or first-degree relative.

Detection: Schedule Breast Screenings Regularly

The sooner you know you have cancer the sooner you can receive treatment. The cancer has less time to spread and your survival outlook will be more positive.

Screening Types

Self breast exams and clinical breast exams involve feeling for lumps with your fingertips.

Mammograms are breast x-rays. Go to the American College of Radiology Web site to find an accredited facility near you:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnets and radio waves. (MRIs are not used routinely: although they are more sensitive than mammograms, they can miss some cancers that mammograms detect.)

When to Begin Screening

Mammograms and MRIs are important because they can detect tumors when they are still too small to feel and before they cause symptoms.

The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • 20s and 30s: have a clinical breast exam every 3 years.

  • 40s: have a clinical breast exam and a mammogram every year.

  • At high risk: get an MRI and a mammogram every year, beginning at 30.

  • At moderately increased risk: consult your doctors about whether and when to add MRI screenings to your yearly mammogram.

For more information visit the American Cancer Society Web site at and the National Breast Cancer Foundation Web site at

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
HealthDiseases and IllnessesBreast CancerCancerFitnessHealth Organizations