Question from Sandy Snitaker: Hello. My name is Sandy Snitacker. I'm a ten-year breast cancer survivor and my question is: What is the single most important thing a woman can do to reduce her risk of getting breast cancer?
Response from Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., American Cancer Society: I don't know that there's any one single thing you can do to prevent breast cancer. Certainly we know, for example, that in post-menopausal women, obesity influences the risk of breast cancer.
We know that alcohol consumption, even a modest amount of alcohol -- two glasses of wine a day, for example -- has been shown to increase your risk of getting breast cancer. But one of the things that's usually overlooked is the fact that a woman can actually find out what her risk is of getting breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about this, or go online, for example, and just search for the term GAIL -- G-A-I-L -- model. Find out what your risk of breast cancer is, because if your risk is elevated, there are things you can do -- such as taking medications -- to reduce that risk.
And if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, you may be a candidate for a test called BRCA. In that case, talk to your doctor, and if necessary, see a counselor who's an expert in genetics, and discuss with them whether or not you should have the BRCA test. Because in that situation, there's a very high risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, and you can do things to reduce that risk, but it'd be different operations or perhaps taking certain medications.