A breast cancer specialist shares two things she should never do so she can lower her breast cancer risk

  • A breast cancer surgeon shared two things she never does so she can lower her risk of developing the disease.
  • Rachel O’Connell doesn’t miss a monthly breast self-exam and doesn’t drink alcohol during the week.
  • She said that genes and being female, which cannot be changed, put people at greater risk.

A breast cancer surgeon shared two things she avoids to lower her risk of the disease.

Rachel O’Connell, a consultant breast oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in the UK, told Insider that often factors we can’t change, such as age and being female, put people at greater risk of developing the disease.

However, lifestyle choices can produce “additional benefits” in reducing breast cancer risk as well as improving overall health, she said.

An estimated 264,000 women and 2,400 men are diagnosed annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s what O’Connell would never do so you can lower your risk of breast cancer:

1. You miss a breast exam

Finding breast cancer early can mean you’ll “need less treatment,” O’Connell said.

That’s why O’Connell, 44, who is too young for screening in the UK, which is for people between the ages of 50 and 71, gets her breasts checked once a month.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women ages 50 to 74 with an “average” risk of breast cancer have a mammogram every two years. This increases the chances of finding it at an early stage “when it can be treated and cured,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

She said she didn’t have a set method for examining her breasts, but said it was important to get to know them and have a routine.

Signs of breast cancer that O’Connell looks for include: dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge, and lumps.

2. Drink alcohol from Sunday to Thursday

O’Connell avoids alcohol Sunday through Thursday because it helps her drink less overall.

“It can be difficult to moderate alcohol and that’s why the only thing I would say with alcohol is have a strict idea of ​​what you do and don’t do because you might end up having a glass of wine in the evening, which becomes two glasses of wine in the evening.” evening, and then two or three glasses of wine every evening, which may not be a good idea,” O’Connell said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research indicates that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer.

“I don’t think you shouldn’t be drinking, and things should be in moderation,” she said.

O’Connell tries to do everything in moderation

O’Connell said she takes an “everything in moderation” approach to life, including physical activity and her diet, to protect her overall health rather than specifically reduce her breast cancer risk. For example, you try to eat a diet that’s not “too high” in saturated fat by eating red meat once a week.

“The most exercise I try to do is go swimming with my 4-year-old son, and when I’m walking places, I try to go at a brisk pace to get my heart rate up,” O’Connell, who often works long hours in the operating room, said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being overweight and inactive increases the risk of breast cancer — and 12 other types of cancer — in postmenopausal women. However, not everyone with breast cancer has risk factors, and not all people at risk will develop the disease.

“I always reassure patients that the vast majority of the time they did nothing wrong to cause breast cancer,” O’Connell said.

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