The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, so it is not possible to know if anything can prevent it altogether. However, dietary and lifestyle approaches can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Also, early detection is vital to good outcomes.
BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It provides free screening mammograms for women aged over 40 years (particularly targeting women aged 50-74 years) with the aim of reducing deaths from breast cancer in this target group through early detection of the disease.
Diet and lifestyle
- Maintain a healthy weight. Especially after menopause, being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Do regular exercise. Even moderate physical activity decreases your risk, especially for women who have been through menopause.
- Limit your alcohol intake. More than 800 cases of breast cancer in Australia are caused by alcohol consumption each year. Limit your intake to less than 2 standard drinks a day.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is a leading cause of a number of cancers.
Studies have shown that women who breastfeed for 12 months or more are slightly less likely to develop breast cancer than those who don’t. The reasons are not fully understood, but it could be because women do not ovulate as regularly while they are breastfeeding and oestrogen levels remain stable.
Having children is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer – the more children women have, the more their risk of breast cancer appears to be reduced.
Also, having children at a younger age (less than 30 years) is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.
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Last reviewed: July 2018