Prevention Strategies

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Despite all of the medical advances in the treatment of breast cancer (and the advances to come in the treatment of triple negative breast cancer), the best survival strategy is to prevent the onset of the disease.  Most researchers and physicians acknowledge that there is no fool proof prevention plan for breast cancer.  But most of them agree that there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of developing triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and other forms of breast cancer.   

For instance, being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially for women after menopause (or the change of life) or if the weight gain took place during adulthood. Also, the risk seems to be higher if the extra fat is around the waist.  But the link between weight and breast cancer risk is complex.  And studies of fat in the diet as it relates to breast cancer risk have often given conflicting results. The American Cancer Society recommends you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life and avoid gaining too much weight.  Other strategies for reducing your risk of breast cancer include [1]:

Rethink your diet. The American Cancer Society recommends eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily, choosing whole grains, and limiting your consumption of red and processed meats (such as cold cuts). The American Association for Cancer Research recommends eliminating alcohol entirely.

Make time for exercise. Carrying excess weight in your mid-section, as measured by your waist-to-hip ratio, may double to triple your risk of TNBC. You should maintain a healthy weight and exercise at least 45 minutes five times a week. One study found that as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2½ hours of brisk walking per week reduced the cancer risk by 18%.  Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more. The American Cancer Society suggests that you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes 5 or more days a week. The bonus, of course, is that such healthy living also protects you from heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and many other health problems.

 Gain the benefit of breast-feeding. "We think having children and not breast-feeding probably doubles or triples your risk of this type of breast cancer," explains Robert C. Millikan, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The risk has nothing to do with being pregnant or not. "It's the lack of breast-feeding," Millikan says. Once you become pregnant, your breast cells divide, creating what physicians call immature cells. Those cells need to mature to be healthy. Breast-feeding allows the cells to mature, protecting them from becoming cancerous.


[1] Sheree Crute and Lynya Floyd Triple Threat: How to fight the breast cancer disproportionately affecting young Black women Originally Published in the October 2008 issue of Essence magazine, pg 179

Last Medical Review: August 2010