The number of deaths due to breast cancer is decreasing, and more and more women are surviving it. This could be because of screening procedures, which help the disease to be diagnosed earlier, or due to an improvement in treatment. However, there are some risk factors that determine why you may get breast cancer. The most important one is your sex. That you are a woman puts you half way there to developing cancer because you have breast tissue. If a close woman relative such as your mother or aunt has had breast cancer then you are at higher, perhaps double, the risk of developing breast cancer. So, family medical history plays an important part in determining if you are at risk.
You may also be genetically disposed to this cancer if you have the BRCA 1 or 2 gene changes, as these are the most common mutated genes. Some gene mutations increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Also, as you age your risk of this cancer increases, as 80% of women who are diagnosed with this disease are above the age of 50. In addition, if you have already had cancer in one breast the chances of the second breast developing it are higher. This will be considered a new diagnosis of breast cancer and not a recurrence of the previous one. Similarly, if your chest area has been exposed to radiation sometime in your life then you are at higher risk. The age at which you had your first period and the age at which menopause started for you also determine if you are at risk for breast cancer.
Studies show that Asian and Hispanic women are at a lower risk of developing breast cancer; and while African-American are less likely to get the cancer than white women, they are at more risk of death from it.
And while you cannot control your risk from the factors mentioned above there are certain things that it is within your power to do. If you have had a child before the age of 30 then you are at less risk of getting breast cancer. So either having no children or having the first pregnancy after the age of 30 considerably increases your chances of getting breast cancer. Also, women who have a number of children and who breastfeed them are at much less risk—in fact, they cut their risk by half.
Certain studies have shown that taking birth control pills might increase your chances of developing breast cancer. The link hasn’t been totally established as yet but if you are thinking of starting on such pills then be advised by your physician first.
A tenuous link has been established between obesity and breast cancer. So it is likely that you might develop it if you are overweight. There is again more of a risk if you are past your menopause, and gained the extra weight as an adult, which is lodged around the waist area. Your intake of alcohol increases your risk—two to five glasses a day puts you in the high risk category as compared to women who drink one glass or none a day.
Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of you developing breast cancer so if you haven’t started on it yet you must consult your doctor. There are indications that using HRT reduces the efficacy of mammograms so breast cancer will be detected only at a later stage.
Exercise or the lack of it determines if you are at risk of developing breast cancer. You must try to include some kind of exercise routine in your daily habits. Walking and exercising for at least ten hours in a week reduces your chances of developing this disease.
So as you can see, some factors are in your power to control. So, go ahead and take your life in your hands and reduce the risk of breast cancer, no matter what the odds.
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