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Breast Cancer Prevention: Are There Ways to Lower Your Risk?

Are there any ways to prevent breast cancer?  Learn it from the board-certified breast surgical oncologist. 

Can genetic testing identify whether or not an individual has a gene that causes breast cancer? If such a gene is detected, do you support the idea of preventive mastectomy and breast reconstruction?

There have been a number of genes discovered that predispose women and men to the development of breast and other cancers. We inherit these genes from our parents. Anyone can be tested to see if they have one of these genes. The testing requires the collection of a blood or saliva sample. 

If a person is found to have one of the genes that increases their risk of developing breast cancer, then they are usually recommended to undergo enhanced breast cancer screening, which typically means screening every six months with either mammogram or breast MRI.

There are a number of genetic mutations that increase breast cancer risk to a degree but not to a great enough degree that the benefits of mastectomy outweigh the costs.

Depending on the genetic mutation identified, they might also be recommended to consider risk-reducing interventions, such as prophylactic or preventative mastectomies and anti-estrogen medication.

Whether or not a prophylactic mastectomy is considered depends on which genetic mutation the patient has. If the patient has a mutation that greatly increases their risk of breast cancer, such as the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations, then we discuss the benefit of undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy with or without reconstruction. 

There is no scientific evidence to support taking any specific vitamins or supplements in order to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer

However, there are a number of genetic mutations that increase breast cancer risk to a degree but not to a great enough degree that the benefits of mastectomy outweigh the costs. 

Are there any vitamins and supplements to prevent breast cancer?

Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no way that we know of to prevent breast cancer. There are things that we can do to reduce our risk of developing breast cancer, but we can’t prevent it entirely. 

In regards to vitamins and supplements, there is no scientific evidence to support taking any specific vitamins or supplements in order to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. For the most part, there is no harm in taking vitamins and supplements, but none of the studies that have been done have found a real impact on breast cancer risk.

There is an idea that regular exercise lowers the risk of breast cancer because extra fat produces extra estrogen, which increases the risk of getting breast cancer. Is it true?

Regular exercise does appear to be protective when it comes to breast cancer risk at least in part due to the reason that you've mentioned. The main source of estrogen in premenopausal women is the ovaries, but fat cells also produce some degree of estrogen. So when a woman goes through menopause and her ovaries stop producing estrogen, her fat cells continue to do so. 

Regular exercise can decrease and maintain low levels of body fat thereby decreasing the amount of estrogen in the body, which can decrease breast cancer risk.

Therefore, the more body fat a woman has, the higher her exposure to estrogen. Regular exercise can decrease and maintain low levels of body fat thereby decreasing the amount of estrogen in the body, which can decrease breast cancer risk. 

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