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Prevention of breast cancer

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Breast cancer prevention includes strategies that range from a change in lifestyle behaviours to alter modifiable risk factors, to the prophylactic use of chemoprevention or surgery — based on genetic predisposition or other factors that identify patients at high risk — and the treatment of pre-invasive lesions found by population mammographic screening.

The strategy for this narrative review was to search PubMed and the grey literature available on the internet for the most recent reviews and meta-analyses and for pivotal articles describing each preventive action, and to supplement those articles with others from the references of the reviews.

Many of the major risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed. Breast cancer is more common in women than men by 100-fold.1 In women, reproductive factors, such as early menarche and late menopause — which increase the exposure of breast tissue to oestrogen and progesterone — also increase the risk of developing cancer.2 The incidence of breast cancer also increases with age, with 77% of breast cancer in Australian women occurring over the age of 50 years.1 A family history of first degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter), although associated with only one in nine breast cancers, almost doubles the risk compared with women who have unaffected relatives.