Breast cancer - reduce your risk

Some 50,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year - the disease accounts for 12,000 deaths and is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in women.

According to Breast Cancer Care, an estimated 100,000 people are also faced with secondary breast cancer.

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Reduce your risk
The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood but, though there are some factors you cannot control - genetics, family history and age, for example - there are ways in which you can reduce your risk.

As with most cancers a healthy lifestyle not only reduces your chances of developing the disease but also gives your body the best chance of fighting it if you are diagnosed.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, a more active, healthier lifestyle could reduce your risk by up to 42 per cent.

Cutting down your alcohol consumption, giving up smoking and maintaining a healthy weight will help to protect your body from a range of serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Though there are no definite links between breast cancer and diet (as yet) a healthy balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and regular exercise will ensure you do not become overweight, and this is particularly important for post-menopausal women, for whom an increase in oestrogen has been found to increase the risk.

Check your breasts
Checking your breasts regularly means you are more likely to be diagnosed early and therefore have the best chance of beating cancer.

With regular checking you will come to know what is normal and consequently recognise any changes as soon as they occur.

Any unexpected change in size or shape, skin texture (dimpling or puckering), a lump or thickening of the breast tissue, and constant pain in the breast or armpit could point to a problem. An inverted nipple, discharge from one or both nipples, and a rash around the nipple are also signs that cancer may be developing.

If you notice any of the above change, do not delay - see your GP.

Women over 50 are most at risk (almost 80 per cent of cases occur in the over-50s) so if you fall into this category, be sure to attend one of the many routine breast screening services available across the country.

Remember, an early diagnosis will increase your chances of beating breast cancer and allow doctors to treat the disease before it spreads so take the time to check your breasts... it could save your life.

For more information on how to properly check for breast cancer or for advice and support, visit