How to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk After Menopause

'Tis the month to remember the ladies, part II

Your sister.

Your mom.

Your grandmother.

Your aunt.

Your friend.


It’s more than likely that one or more of the above list has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Currently, about 13 percent of U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. (That’s a 1 in 8 chance).

Although there have been giant leaps forward in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, the sad fact remains that women are still dying of the disease — nearly 42,000 in 2019. But it’s only fair to also look on the bright side: There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors out there — and that includes women still being treated and women who have completed treatment. 

Full disclosure: I am happy to call myself a breast cancer survivor. My diagnosis was back in 1988, when I was just 34. Compared to today, so little was known about the incidence of breast cancer in younger women. Now we know that each year about 12,150 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women under 40, with nearly 80 percent of these women finding the cancer themselves.

We all face the risk of this disease, just by being women. Indeed, some women will get breast cancer out of the blue, without having any of the known risk factors (like me!). However, there are factors that can raise your risk. (You can read more about them in last week’s issue here.)

This week, however, let’s focus on what’s in our power to fight back.

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

What we all need to do

Watch our weight. Being overweight or obese — especially after menopause — puts you at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, compared to women of normal weight. Having more fat tissue can increase your risk since fat raises estrogen and insulin levels (both which have been linked to some breast cancers).

Make time to exercise. It’s good for a zillion reasons — your heart, your lungs, your mood, your bones. You get it. But it’s also important because women who are inactive face a higher risk of developing breast cancer. That doesn’t mean you have to go all-out if you don’t want to, but research shows that walking briskly for just 75 to 150 minutes a week can help lower your risk.

There’s also evidence that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, particularly for women past menopause.

Curb our alcohol intake. Granted, things have been a bit more stressful since March (!) and we might be hitting the bottle with a wee bit more abandon than usual. But keep this in mind: Studies show that the more you drink, the higher your risk of breast cancer. Two or three drinks a day puts you at a 20 percent higher risk than a non-drinker.

Consider your hormone therapy. Taking a combination of estrogen and progesterone has been linked to an increase in the risk of breast cancer, especially if you take it for more than five years. The risk “seems to go back down within five years of stopping treatment,” notes the American Cancer Society.

These are all good ways to reduce your risk, but these are also good things to do all the time since they’ll keep us healthy in all aspects of our lives and keep us feeling good to boot. And that’s something we all need more of these days!

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For A Pause

  1. Any time you feel or notice any changes in your breasts, consult with a healthcare professional. And please, make sure to keep up with the recommended screenings. Agreed, they sometimes change as fast as lightning, as well as differ between experts. Still, talk to your doctor to get the scoop on right for you and your risk factors.

  2. So many of us get tongue-tied and don’t know what to say/what not to say to a friend with breast cancer. I wrote this article for Everyday Health to make it a little easier for you to be the supportive friend you want to be.

  3. If you need an excuse to shop, why not make it for a good cause? The Breast Cancer Research Foundation shows you how to shop pink.

  4. If shopping is not your thing, how are you with climbing? The 6th Annual Climb for a Cure is taking place on Saturday, October 31. Virtually, of course.  

One More Thing

Suddenly, you’re shapelier and lovelier.

Cross your heart!

I'm comin' up so you better get this party started.
Get the Party Started, Pink

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