Risk-Reducing Stategies

Some women at increased risk consider having breast tissue surgically removed to reduce the chance of developing cancer (prophylactic mastectomy). This surgery reduces breast cancer risk by more than 90%. Options for reconstruction should be thoroughly investigated by women considering this surgery.

There are medications, such as tamoxifen, that are available to reduce the risk of breast cancer. While they can be effective, these medications are not appropriate for all women at increased risk and do have side effects. Some of these medications, such as the new Aromatase Inhibitors, are still being evaluated in clinical trials in which you might participate. Your doctor can provide you with more information about these drugs.

Women at high risk are encouraged to have their ovaries surgically removed after completing their families to reduce their chances of developing ovarian cancer (prophylactic oophorectomy). Removing the ovaries can also reduce breast cancer risk by as much as 50%.

Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, but may not be appropriate for some women.

In addition to heredity, environmental factors and lifestyle choices influence overall cancer risk. For general healthy living, the American Cancer Society recommends eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption to one drink or less per day, avoiding sun exposure, and eliminating tobacco.

Screening and prevention recommendations should be custom-tailored for your particular situation, including family and medical history. Sometimes results of genetic testing can help to clarify decisions about cancer screening and prevention. It is important to develop a plan that is right for you.