Each October, people all over the world unite to increase awareness and raise funds for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure for breast cancer. While men can get breast cancer, it is 100 times more likely to affect women.
There are a multitude of factors that can attribute to your personal risk of developing breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Foundation, the largest breast cancer organization in the United States, has an extensive website dedicated to facts and statistics, risk factors, patients and caregivers, research, and healthcare providers. Here are just a few of the risk factors you should be aware of:
- Age – As we mature, the risk of breast cancer increased exponentially. However, there are also other age factors that can attribute to risk, for women, this includes reproductive history, age at first period, and age at menopause.
- Alcohol and Smoking – Alcohol intake and smoking are contributing risk factors. However, these are risk factors you can change!
- Race – In the United States, both African American and Caucasian women are more likely to get breast cancer than Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander women.
- Exercise, Body Weight, Weight Gain & Height – Women that exercise has a 10-20% lower risk of breast cancer than those that do not exercise. Bodyweight, weight gain, and taller women can fall into higher-risk categories.
- Family History – Both women and men that have a close relative with breast cancer have an increase in risk. Inherited gene mutations and shared lifestyle traits or facts are also strong contributors. However, most women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease.
- Hormone Levels – The National Cancer Institute states, “Studies have also shown that a woman’s risk of breast cancer is related to the estrogen and progesterone made by her ovaries (known as endogenous estrogen and progesterone). Being exposed for a long time and/or to high levels of these hormones has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.”
Early detection is key! All women should be aware of changes in their breasts and report any changes to their health care provider immediately. Starting at age 40, women should have the choice to receive annual mammograms and/or MRIs. Women that fall into high-risk categories should discuss a prevention plan with their physician.
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