Aim: To examine the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by women with varying levels of familial and perceived risk of breast cancer with the goal of preventing breast cancer. Methods: Cross-sectional data on CAM use were collected on 2,198 women (mean age, 63 years) personally unaffected by breast cancer in the Minnesota Breast Cancer Family Study. CAM use was compared across women at high, moderate, or average risk based on family history, as well as across categories of perceived risk of breast cancer. CAM use was also examined in relation to screening and general health behaviors, worry about breast cancer, and optimism. Results: Half (49.5%) of the women reported using at least one CAM modality with the intent of preventing breast cancer. Univariate analyses indicated that greater overall CAM use was related to greater perceived risk (P = 0.018), more general health behaviors (P < 0.0001), more breast cancer screening behaviors (P = 0.0002), greater optimism (P = 0.0002), and higher educational attainment (P < 0.0001). Multivariate analysis revealed that general health behaviors (P < 0.0001), education (P = 0.0027), and optimism (P = 0.037) were significant predictors of CAM use when in the same model with perceived risk and breast cancer screening behaviors. Conclusions: Many women use CAM with the goal of preventing breast cancer. General health-promoting behaviors, education, and optimism predict CAM use. Evidence-based guidance is needed for the public and health care providers on the potential and limitations of specific CAM approaches to affect cancer risk.
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