It is the time of year that we see a lot of pink around town in support of breast cancer awareness. This is an important issue for both women and men because it impacts many families each year that receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. It is so important to detect breast cancer early in order to have a better chance at survival.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are many risk factors for breast cancer, although you may have some of these risk factors it does not mean that you will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer. Some risk factors for breast cancer that we cannot change include being female, aging, having a first degree relative with breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter), it is slightly more common in white women, but African Americans are more likely to die from this diagnosis, dense breast tissue, previous diagnosis of breast cancer, starting menstrual cycle before age 12, previous chest radiation or DES exposure and certain other benign breast disease. It is important to keep in mind that over 85% of women that are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.
There are some lifestyle factors that have been linked to greater risk of breast cancer, including have no children or having their first child after age 30, studies have shown that women who use hormonal birth control have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer although the risk seems to diminish after stopping, using combined hormone therapy (estrogen/progesterone) after menopause can also increase risks, but seems to go back to normal population risk after stopping for 5 years. In addition, breast feeding seems to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women that consume 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol. Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Some studies have found that smoking might also increase the risk of breast cancer.
With all of the potential risk factors it is important to talk with your health care provider about your risk and when you should start having mammograms, how to perform self breast exams and when a clinical breast exam is needed! Some of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk factors are to maintain a healthy weight with a balanced diet, get regular physical exercise and limit your alcohol intake.