Cheerful multiethnic women with ribbons of breast cancer awareness hugging outdoors

Your risk for breast cancer increases as you get older. There is no known way to prevent breast cancer, but with some cancers, finding them early can increase your chances of successful treatment.

Here are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk:

  • Get familiar with the look and feel of your breasts. This will help you notice any changes. Call your doctor if you notice a change.
  • Have regular breast exams by your doctor or nurse. Ask your doctor how often you should get them.
  • Have regular mammograms. A mammogram is a picture of your breast tissue. It can find changes in your breast before you can feel them. Talk to your doctor about when to get this test.

You can also help take care of yourself and reduce your risk of cancer if you:

  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy, low-fat diet.
  • Get some exercise every day. If you don’t usually exercise, walking is a good way to start.
  • Don’t smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit how much you drink. Any amount of alcohol may increase your risk for some types of cancer.
  • Breastfeed. There is some evidence that breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast cancer. The benefit seems to be greatest in those who have breastfed for longer than 12 months or who breastfed several children.

BRCA gene changes

People who do a gene test and find out that they have a BRCA gene change have some options to manage their cancer risk.

  • For female breast cancer: If you haven’t yet had cancer, you may want to think about starting breast cancer screening at a younger age, taking medicine, and having preventive surgery.
  • For male breast cancer: You may want to think about doing breast self-exams and having clinical breast exams. (And it’s a good idea to have prostate cancer screenings too.)

If you have a BRCA gene change, talk with your doctor about how you can manage your cancer risk.