Many postmenopausal women think their primary risk factor for breast cancer is genetics. Yet most breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease, and the major breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) account for only 5% to 10% of cases. The primary risk factors…

  • Age. Average age at diagnosis is 61, and rates are highest after age 70.
  • Estrogen. This hormone stimulates growth of breast tissues-including abnormal cells. Estrogen levels are highest during the childbearing years, so the earlier you started menstruating and the later you reached menopause, the higher your risk.

To help prevent breast cancer…

  • Guard against vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D may fight formation of blood vessels that nourish tumors and inhibit division of cells that line the breast. Many experts now recommend that all adults get 1,000 international units (IU) daily

Sources: Sunlight (from which skin synthesizes vitamin D...cod liver oil, fatty fish (mackerel, tuna), fortified milk and cereals...and supplements of vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol).

  • Get adequate folate, a B vitamin involved in DNA synthesis and repair. Eat three one-cup servings daily of folate-rich foods-leafy green vegetables, garbanzo beans, peas, citrus fruits.
  • Avoid unnecessary hormone therapy. Consider taking estrogen (plus progestin to guard against uterine cancer, if you have not had a hysterectomy) only if hot flashes and night sweats significantly disrupt your sleep or quality of life. Use the lowest effective dose...try to limit use to less than four or five years.
  • Watch your weight. Obesity after menopause may double breast cancer risk, perhaps because fat cells take over the ovaries' job of producing estrogen. Nearly one-quarter of postmenopausal breast cancers in the US are due to excess weight.
  • Exercise 30 minutes or more per day. Exercise lowers blood levels of insulin and estrogen, both of which are risk factors for breast cancer.
  • Eat less saturated fat. In a study of 48,835 postmenopausal women, those who were accustomed to a high-fat diet reduced their breast cancer risk by adopting a diet in which less than 25% of daily calories came from fat.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Even moderate drinking raises breast cancer risk by increasing estrogen and decreasing folate absorption. Also, alcohol can be metabolized into acetaldehyde, a potential carcinogen, so have no more than one drink daily.

If you're at high risk: The drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene can reduce breast cancer risk-but increase the odds of blood clots, hot flashes, uterine cancer and perhaps stroke. Ask your doctor if these drugs are right for you.

Wine Helps Block Estrogen from Causing Cancer

Taking the amount of resveratrol found in a glass of red wine 0.1 grams) decreases the ability of estrogen to change into toxins that react with DNA in breast cells, causing cancer.

Resveratrol is an antioxidant and can boost the immune system. Speak to your doctor before taking resveratrol supplements.

Warning! Even Short-Term Hormone Use Is Dangerous

Previous research suggested that taking estrogen and progestin (to relieve menopausal symptoms) for less than five years did not increase breast cancer risk.

New finding: Taking these hormones for three years or more may triple the risk for lobular breast cancer, which accounts for only about 16% of invasive breast cancers in the US but is hard to detect.

Recommended: If you have been taking hormones for three years or more, ask your doctor if it is time to consider discontinuing them.

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