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Women's Health

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Are You Turning Into Your Mom?

How to cut your odds of breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and immune diseases -- even if your mom had them.

Breast Cancer continued...

For example:

  • Alcohol. Moderate alcohol intake -- one glass of wine or beer or less, on average, per day -- does not raise your risk of breast cancer. But regularly drinking two or three alcoholic beverages a day does increase that risk --so keep your alcohol intake moderate, at most.
  • Hormone replacement therapy. It’s known that hormone replacement therapy after menopause elevates the risk of breast cancer, so women with a family history of the disease might want to be especially cautious about taking HRT.
  • Pregnancy. Having your first baby before age 30 may cut your breast cancer risk, as does breastfeeding. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection. “You’re not necessarily going to plan your life around these factors, but, for example, since breastfeeding is very healthy anyway, this can be an added incentive to nurse and nurse longer,” Chung says.
  • Weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight helps to lower your risk of many cancers, including breast cancer.

You can combine these lifestyle choices with being more vigilant about screening.

“We’re more successful at curing breast cancer the earlier we catch it, so if you have a strong family history, you’re the type of person who should definitely get a mammogram starting at a younger age than usual," Chung says. "Depending on how strongly the disease runs in your family, you might also consider regular breast MRIs.”

A combination of lifestyle choices and enhanced vigilance can help women do their best to ward off almost any disease they might worry about inheriting from their mothers, Chung says.


Osteoporosis isn’t quite as strongly genetically linked as breast cancer can be, but there are family factors that put you at higher risk.

Smaller-framed Asian and Caucasian women are at particular risk for osteoporosis. So if you inherited that body type from your mom, you need to take particular care of your bones.

“If your mom had a hip fracture, or what we call ‘the dwindles’ -- literally shrinking as she gets older -- there are things you can do,” Chung says.

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