I’m starting a new series on the blog today called “Breast Cancer 101: Because You Need to Know.” If you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer, come back each Thursday for a new lesson.
Today we’re discussing your risk for developing breast cancer. I was 33 years old with no family history of the disease when I was diagnosed. Did I ever think I was at risk? Never! My suggestion? Know your risks so you aren’t blindsided, like I was.
So, let’s talk established risks. This means that scientists have 100% confirmed these things can cause breast cancer.
- Being a woman: While breast cancer does develop in men, 250,000 new cancer cases in American women will be reported this year.
- Age: 2:3 women over 55 years and 1:8 women under 45 are likely to develop breast cancer. It’s suggested that aging bodies are incapable of repairing cellular damage and that is one reason why cancers occur in older women.
- Family history: If you have a sister, mother, or daughter diagnosed with the disease you have double the chance of developing the disease. If you have both a mom and sister diagnosed, your risk is five times higher.
- Genetics: Families with a history of the disease have been linked with the BRCA genes. Though only 5% – 10% of breast cancers are hereditary.
- Race: White women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic, and Asian women. Though African American women are usually diagnosed with a more aggressive, more advanced stage of cancer.
- Other risks include: radiation treatment to the face or chest, a diagnosis history of benign breast conditions, being overweight, having not had a full-term pregnancy, never having breastfed a baby, menstrual cycles starting before age 12, using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), drinking alcohol regularly, having dense breasts, smoking, and lack of regular exercise.
Now, the theories. This list is based off of studies done but still remain only as possible causes.
- Low levels of vitamin D: Low levels have been associated with higher risk as the vitamin helps control the growth of breast cancer cells.
- Excessive light exposure during nighttime hours.
- DES exposure (a drug given to women in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s to prevent miscarriage).
- Diet: Studies suggest that 30%-40% of cancer is related to unhealthy eating habits.
- Exposure to chemicals in food, make-up, lawn and garden products, plastic products (BPA), sunscreen, and grilled foods.
These are the risks. Better yet, these are your risks. Don’t convince yourself just because you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, that you will never develop the disease.
Your homework this week: Find out how you can lower your risk of developing breast cancer by looking at any reputable breast cancer website, including, breastcancer.org and the Dr. Susan Love Breast Cancer Foundation.
Next week, we’ll talk more about the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene. How can you find out if you’re a carrier and what does it mean if you are.
I encourage you to leave me a question about anything we discussed today or about any other breast cancer questions you might have!
This information should not be used to substitute any professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to visit your physician. Works cited: breastcancer.org, March 20, 2012.