Basics of Breast Cancer

(CNN) — Actress Angelina Jolie recently underwent a double mastectomy after learning she had a mutation in a gene that increases the risk of breast cancer. But only a small fraction of women develop breast cancer because of genetic miswiring. Most can take less drastic steps to help prevent the disease.

About 5 percent or so of breast cancers are actually caused by genetic mutations. Actually only about 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family history for breast cancer.

There are lifestyle changes that women can make that may help reduce their risks. They can start by watching their weight; obesity is linked to higher rates of breast cancer.

They can also get plenty of exercise to help with weight control and to keep the immune system in top shape.

Also, limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day, even small amounts increase the risk of breast cancer.

Anyone with a family history of breast cancer should discuss it with their doctor. If the doctor is concerned, they may advise the patient to see a genetic counselor.

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