How to Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk at Any Age: A Decade-by-Decade Guide

6. Avoid (or limit) hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
“Hormone replacement therapy, also known as postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT), definitely increases your [breast cancer] risk," says Julie R. Gralow, MD, the director of breast medical oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “But for women with major menopause issues, Im not opposed to limited courses of HRT—say a five-year period, but not decades.”

7. If youre at high risk of getting breast cancer, ask your doctor whether youre a good candidate for chemoprevention.
“There are two drugs approved for reducing your risk of getting breast cancer: raloxifene, which is approved for use in postmenopausal women, and tamoxifen, which is approved for all ages,” explains Dr. Gralow. “They are very similar. While the average woman should not take a drug to reduce the risk of breast cancer, I would consider them for a woman whos had a biopsy that shows an increased risk for development of cancer.”


Get enough Vitamin D.
Although the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 400 IUs, some researchers think this amount is too low, reports Dr. McTiernan. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, noting the beneficial effect that vitamin D has been observed to have on breast cancer risk, suggested that higher levels—1,000 IUs of vitamin D a day—may be a convenient and cost-effective way to reduce that risk. (The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies advises that daily intake of vitamin D above 2,000 IU could be dangerous.) Vitamin D occurs naturally in fish and eggs and is commonly found in fortified dairy products. Dr. McTiernan advises that women can get an inexpensive blood test from their doctors to check their vitamin D levels; doctors can recommend supplements as needed.

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Lead writer: Anne Marie O’Connor
Last Updated: September 17, 2008

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