(Dennison, Ohio) – Cancer is unpredictable and unbiased, but Trinity Hospital Twin City is bringing you a few tips to lessen your risk.
The first step to knowing how to prevent breast cancer is to acknowledge the risk factors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are two kinds of risk factors, those you can change and those you can’t.
Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Risk Factors You Cannot Change
- Getting older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations.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.
- Reproductive history.Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
- Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
- Previous treatment using radiation therapy.Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
- Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.
Once you understand where the risk is, you can begin taking steps to lessen that risk and move towards prevention. The CDC adds you can help lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways:
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly (at least four hours per week).
- Get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours per night for adults).
- Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day.
- Avoid exposures to chemicals that can cause cancer (carcinogens).
- Try to reduce your exposure to radiation during medical tests like mammograms, X-rays, CT scans and PET scans.
- If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
- Breastfeed your babies, if possible.