Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast cancer is a group of diseases that affects breast tissue. Both women and men can get breast cancer, though it’s much more common in women. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Some women are at higher risk for breast cancer than others because of their medical history.
Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that average-risk women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. Average-risk women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years of age or older.
Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Risk factors include
•Genetic mutations, which are inherited changes to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
•Early menstrual period.
•Late or no pregnancy.
•Starting menopause after age 55.
•Not being physically active.
•Being overweight or obese after menopause.
•Having dense breasts.
•Using combination hormone therapy. Taking hormones to replace missing estrogen and progesterone in menopause for more than five years raises the risk for breast cancer.
•Taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills). Certain forms of oral contraceptive pills raise breast cancer risk.
•Personal history of breast cancer. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
•Personal history of certain non-cancerous breast diseases.
•Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
•Previous treatment using radiation therapy.
•Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
What to Do to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer
Many factors over the course of a lifetime can influence your breast cancer risk. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history, but you can help lower your risk of breast cancer by caring for your health in the following ways:
•Keep a healthy weight.
•Exercise regularly (at least four hours a week).
•Get nighttime sleep, since research shows that lack of nighttime sleep can be a risk factor.
•Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
•Avoid exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens) and chemicals that interfere with the normal function of the body.
•Limit exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans if not medically necessary.
•If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it’s right for you.
•Breastfeed any children you may have, if possible.
If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may be at high risk for getting breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about more ways to lower your risk.
Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs.
Source: Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention