Can breast cancer be prevented?
There is no certain way to prevent breast cancer, but there are some things that can increase or reduce your risk.
The most common risk factors are things that you cannot change (like being female, and growing older). That’s why it’s important to be aware of any changes to your breasts and to have regular mammograms.
Risk factors for breast cancer
Other things that can increase your risk of breast cancer include:
- a previous diagnosis of breast cancer
- strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer
- inheriting a faulty gene
- exposure to repeated or high-dose radiation
- a previous breast biopsy showing a condition that increases risk
- having dense breasts.
Talk to your GP about your personal risk of breast cancer.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, you have a slightly greater chance of developing the disease – but most women who have a family history won’t get breast cancer. And the majority of women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
You may have heard about breast density, which can make it harder to diagnose breast cancer from a mammogram. We now use digital mammography for screening mammograms, which makes it easier to detect cancers in dense breasts.
For more information, read our information sheet about breast density.
Reducing your risk
The risk of breast cancer may be reduced by:
- maintaining a healthy weight after menopause
- exercising regularly
- limiting alcohol intake.
Hormone replacement therapy
If you are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), ask your doctor about whether it’s right for you.
If you are taking HRT, it can be harder for the mammogram’s X-rays to show any cancer. And taking HRT for symptoms of menopause for more than 5 years can double your risk of breast cancer. Talk to your GP if you have any concerns.
Finding cancer early
You are more likely to survive breast cancer if it is found early and is still small.
Mammograms can show changes inside a breast before they can be felt. That’s why it’s important you get a regular screening mammogram every 2 years – it gives you the best chance of picking up any changes.