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What women can do to help prevent breast cancer



Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian females. About 1 in 9 females will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. You can take steps to help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

What increases my risk of developing breast cancer?

Some factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer include:

  • Age (the risk increases over age 50 although younger women may also develop breast cancer)
  • Having a family history of breast cancer
  • Being overweight or obese especially after menopause
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating a diet high in fat
  • Being exposed to high levels of the hormone estrogen. This may occur if you have never given birth or if you had your first menstrual period at a young age.

How can I decrease my risk?

Sometimes cancer occurs for reasons outside our control, but you can take steps to decrease your risk.  Read Lowering your Risk of Cancer for tips on managing your weight, eating healthy, being physically active and more.

What about specific foods like soy and flax?

Researchers are studying whether specific foods or nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, soy, flax and fibre can affect breast cancer risk. A firm link between these foods and risk of breast cancer hasn't been found. However, you can still include these foods as part of a healthy diet.

Should I take supplements?

No. Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get vitamins, minerals and other cancer fighting compounds. Speak with a doctor or dietitian if you are thinking about taking vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements.

What about alcohol?

Avoid alcohol. Drinking any amount of alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. If you choose to drink, women should have no more than one drink per day.    One drink is 350 mL (12 oz) bottle of beer, 150 mL (5 oz) of wine or 45 mL (1.5 oz) of liquor like vodka, whisky, rum or gin.

What about breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding your infants may protect against breast cancer.

Should I get screened for breast cancer?

Follow your health care professional’s advice for knowing your breasts, breast exams and breast cancer screening. Learn more about whether you should be screened.

Bottom line

Managing your weight, eating healthy and being physically active will help lower your risk of breast cancer as well as other cancers and chronic diseases. If you have questions about breast cancer, speak to your health care professionals. Call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 if you have questions about healthy eating and cancer prevention.

For more information

My Cancer IQ, Cancer Care Ontario – Complete a cancer risk assessment and get your personalized action plan to help lower your risk of breast cancer. Lowering your risk of cancer Staying healthy through menopause and beyond What is breast cancer?, Canadian Cancer Society

Last Update – April 27, 2017

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.