Each year, more than 40,000 American women are taken from their families by breast cancer. Given these discouraging statistics, it is important to take preventative measures, such as regular breast cancer screening. Early detection improves the survival rate immensely.
By understanding the risk factors, you can take steps to reduce the likelihood of a diagnosis. Some risks associated with breast cancer can not be changed, but other factors – weight, physical activity, diet – can be changed with lifestyle choices. And in some cases, breast cancer can be prevented. Here's what you need to know about your risk and what you can do about it (or, unfortunately, can not do it):
What risk factors can you control?
- Physical activity. Women who are regularly physically active have a lower risk of breast cancer than uninvolved women. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults receive at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity per week. A study by the Women's Health Initiative found that walking 1.25-2.5 hours a week brisk walking reduced a woman's breast cancer risk by 18 percent
- . Obesity can be particularly harmful after menopause. At this point, increased estrogen levels from excess adipose tissue can increase the chance of developing breast cancer. If you already have a healthy weight, stay there. If you carry a few extra pounds, it may be helpful to start a diet and exercise plan.
- Drink alcohol. Women with two to three alcoholic drinks a day are about 20 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not drink. The American Cancer Society also recommends that women who consume alcohol limit themselves to one drink a day.
- Hormone therapy . If you use hormone therapy to control the symptoms of menopause – night sweats, hot flashes and others – talk to your doctor. Long-term hormone therapy of more than three to five years may increase your risk of breast cancer.
What are risk factors beyond your control?
- sex. This is the risk factor number one for breast cancer. Men can also be diagnosed, but this disease is about 100 times more common in women.
- Getting older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Most diagnoses occur after the age of 55.
- Genetics. Approximately five to ten percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary due to a mutation in the BRCA gene. On average, a woman with a BRCA gene mutation at the age of 80 has an approximately 7 in 10 chance of developing breast cancer.
- Family History. It is important to note that most women with breast cancer (about eight out of ten) have no family history. But a woman's risk for breast cancer almost doubles when she has a mother, sister or first-degree daughter who has breast cancer.
To learn more about how to reduce your risk of breast cancer, visit www. p3nv.org.