October is breast cancer awareness month. You probably hear on a regular basis about the need to do a self-breast exam, but do you know the risk factors for developing breast cancer. It might be hard to remind yourself to do the self-exam, but maybe knowing if you’re more at risk will help you to be more mindful each month of doing it.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Born Female – Yes, men can get breast cancer too. However, it is more likely to occur to a woman. According to BreastCancer.org, “There are about 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 63,960 cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year in American women.”
- Drinking Alcohol – Say it isn’t so! But according to the American Cancer Society, it is. They say the risk increases with the amount consumed. Just 2 or 3 drinks a day can increase your risk by 20% compared to women who don’t drink.
- Aging – Hmmm… there just rarely seems to be anything good about this one. It seems to come up as a risk factor for everything! Women over 60 are more likely to be diagnosed says the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Some organizations put that number even lower, saying the risk increases at 55 and even 50.
- Race – If you are white, you have a higher risk of breast cancer than other races, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes how genetic factors can play a huge role in your odds of developing breast cancer. “Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.”
- Which Leads to Family History – If you have close relatives who have had breast cancer, you will want to keep up with the monthly self-exams. “If you’ve had one first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer, your risk is doubled,” says BreastCancer.org.
- You Started Having Periods at a Younger Age – The American Cancer Society says that women who started having periods before the age of 12 are more at-risk for developing breast cancer. They think it might be due to a longer exposure of estrogen and progesterone hormones.
- Weight – “After menopause, fat tissue may contribute to increases in estrogen levels, and high levels of estrogen may increase the risk of breast cancer. Weight gain during adulthood and excess body fat around the waist may also play a role,” says the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
- Dense Breast Tissue – The National Breast Cancer Foundation notes that having dense breast tissue can increase your risk and make lumps harder to detect. A mammogram will indicate if you have dense breasts.
There are also many other factors that can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. It’s always good to talk to your doctor about what risk factors you may have. You can also attend a 9Health Fair this fall to learn more. Many of our sites have a medical professional there who can perform a breast exam for free and teach you how to do a self-exam if you’re unsure.