Every year, thousands of women hear the frightening words: “You have breast cancer.” Now here are some encouraging words: You might be able to lower your risk for this disease by following some smart lifestyle strategies.
Does it seem like breast cancer is in the news just about every day? Need helping sorting out the facts? Well, it’s true that breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among American women. And, unfortunately, some risks for this disease cannot be changed.
For one thing, you’re more likely to develop it as you get older. In fact, women older than age 50 make up most advanced breast cancer cases. Those whose mothers, sisters, or daughters have had breast cancer also face a higher risk.
Ethnicity also plays a role. For example, breast cancer develops more often in Caucasian women than in African-American women, but risk of dying from breast cancer is higher for African-American women.
You may be able to change some other risk factors:
The American Cancer Society also recommends a clinical breast exam (CBE), examination of breasts by a healthcare professional, every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year starting at age 40. Breast self-exam (BSE), looking at and feeling your breasts for lumps and changes, is also an option for women beginning in their 20’s.
Talk with your doctor about your risk factors, when to start getting mammograms, and how often to get them. Also, ask about the clinical and self-breast examination. Women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their health care provider.
“Breast Cancer Risk in American Women.” National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/probability-breast-cancer.
“Breast Cancer,” American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-risk-factors
“Breast Cancer Prevention.” National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/breast/HealthProfessional.
“The Relationship between Alcohol Use and Risk of Breast Cancer by Histology and Hormone Receptor Status Among Women 65-79 Years of Age.” C.I. Li et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14578143.
“Screening for Breast Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.” Annals of Internal Medicine. annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=745237 .
“Understanding Breast Cancer Risk and How to Lower It.” Breastcancer.org. www.breastcancer.org/risk/understanding.jsp .