8 Things Putting You at "High Risk" for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer in the USA affects 1 in 8 women and is the second most common cancer (after skin cancer). Approxmately 85% of breast cancer is non-invasive or early stage and curable if caught early. The other 15% is invasive breast cancer. There are many risk factors for developing breast cancer, some modifiable and some not. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Age is one of the non-modifiable risk factor. The risk of breast cancer goes up as you age by about 8% per decade after age 40.
If you have a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer, your risk is doubled. If you have two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, your risk is 5 times greater.
5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary and are linked to specific genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women with these mutations have a 50-85% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
Certain Breast Diseases
Having had breast cancer before definitely puts you at a higher risk for developing it again. Having had certain non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia also increased your risk.
Alcohol is the first modifiable risk factor that could lead to breast cancer. Drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The more you drink, the greater your risk.
Obesity And Lack of Exercise
Being overweight or obese after menopause increases your risk of breast cancer. Lack of exercise has also been linked to an increased risk.
Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy
Taking estrogen and progesterone together (combined hormone therapy) after menopause can slightly increase your risk of breast cancer, especially if you take it for 5 years or more. The risk goes back to normal after you stop taking the hormones.
Birth Control Pills
Taking birth control pills can slightly increase your risk of breast cancer, especially if you take them for 5 years or more. The risk goes back to normal after you stop taking the pill.
Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays and CT scans, can slightly increase your risk of breast cancer.
Night Shift Work
Working the night shift could possibly increase your risk of breast cancer. This is emerging research and it thought to be due to the disruption of the body's natural circadian rhythm.
There are many environmental pollutants that could increase your risk of breast cancer, but the research is inconclusive. Some of the pollutants include: certain chemicals found in cosmetics, pesticides, and air pollution.
How to Reduce Your Risk
It's important to be aware of the risk factors for breast cancer so you can take steps to modify the ones you can control and be extra vigilant about monitoring your breasts.
Making lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Some lifestyle changes that may help reduce your risk include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Avoiding or quitting smoking
- Avoiding exposure to ionizing radiation and environmental pollutants whenever possible
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting processed and red meats.
Making positive lifestyle changes and keeping up with breast screening (self-exams and mammography) are the best ways to minimize your risk and for early detection and the best possible outcome if you do develop breast cancer.
If you have any concerns about your risk of developing breast cancer, please speak with your doctor. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Gethin Williams MD Ph.D. is the Medical Director of Imaging & Interventional Specialists
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