How to Prevent Breast Cancer

Mammograms save lives. Most women should start getting mammograms at age 40, and then every year after that.

Women who are younger than 40 but have a family history of breast cancer should start getting mammograms even earlier – 10 years before the age the youngest family member was when they were diagnosed. For example, if your mother was diagnosed at 40, you should start getting your mammograms at 30. 

Additionally, there’s no routine ways to detect, treat and cure cancer, so it’s important where to get a mammogram. Patients should entrust their screenings to experts who read and interpret mammograms (and only mammograms) every single day, specifically to diagnose breast cancer or to make sure there’s nothing to be found on a mammogram.

Healthy lifestyle tips to lower your risk for cancer include:

  • Food: Eating sensibly is important. This includes decreasing processed foods and sugar, getting the appropriate proteins, good fats, fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Fitness: Regular exercise can make a big difference. Walk, cycle, swim, play tennis – finding something you enjoy and making it a consistent part of everyday life can really impact risk factors.
  • Fight weight gain: Weight gain is directly related to health and mortality.
  • Lower stress: numerous studies show that stress is a very real threat to health, negatively impacting our bodies not just emotionally but also physically.
  • Find it early: In addition to getting annual mammograms, regular self-exams are equally important
  • Don’t smoke: If you need help with quitting smoking, call the James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 for more information, or go to

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Genetic Testing

If you have a family history of breast cancer, especially a first-degree relative (for example, your mother, sister, daughter, father or son) who has been diagnosed with the disease, the OSUCCC – James experts recommend genetic testing

Although only 5 -10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by an inherited gene, a family history of a known cancer gene mutation such as BRCA1/2, p53 or PTEN (Cowden’s Syndrome) can put you at much higher risk for breast cancer.

The OSUCCC – James breast cancer research experts lead some of the world’s most advanced studies, interventions, protocols and clinical trials in breast cancer risk reduction and prevention. As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated comprehensive cancer center, the OSUCCC – James offers patients access to clinical trials than any hospital in the region. 

Breast Cancer Risk Factors 

Anything that increases the chance of developing breast cancer is a risk factor. 

The biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer is age. About 75 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women age 50 or older. 

Other factors that may increase breast cancer risks are:

  • Menstruating at an early age
  • Older age at first birth or never having given birth
  • A personal history of invasive breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), or benign (noncancer) breast disease
  • A family history (first-degree relative, such as mother, daughter or sister) of breast cancer
  • Having inherited changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest
  • Having breast tissue that is dense on a mammogram
  • Taking hormones such as estrogen and progesterone for symptoms of menopause
  • Having taken the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy or being the daughter of a woman who took DES while pregnant
  • Obesity
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Caucasian ancestry

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

For patients with a family history of breast cancer, the OSUCCC – James offers counseling through the High-Risk Breast Cancer. We also offer genetic screening at the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center.  

Not everyone with risk factors gets breast cancer. However, if you have risk factors, discuss them with your doctor.

And if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, would like a second opinion, to speak with a breast cancer specialist or schedule a mammogram, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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