Knowledge and vigilance are key to ensuring breast health
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a leading funder of breast cancer research, recommends that risk evaluation become part of a woman's standard breast health routine. The Foundation uses the acronym REMEMBER to remind women about the steps to breast health: Risk Evaluation, Mammography Exam, Monthly Breast Exam and Regular checkup.
According to the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO), risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Increasing age - 78% of breast cancers occur in women age 50 and older, but the incidence in women ages 40-49 is increasing
- Family history - Having a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer; 25% of women diagnosed at age 35 or younger are believed to carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation
- Atypical hyperplasia - Premenopausal women with a biopsy confirmed diagnosis of this non-cancerous breast disease are at increased risk for invasive breast cancer
- Pregnancy - Having your first child after age 30 or not having given birth
- Menstrual history - Having your first period before age 12
- Oral contraception - Women who are using the pill or who have used it within the past ten years face a slightly increased risk
- Alcohol - Studies have found an increased risk in women who consumed one to two drinks or more a day
- Radiation therapy - Young women successfully treated for malignant lymphomas with radiation to nodal areas of the upper torso have an increased risk ten years after their last radiation treatment
If you are at high risk, discuss your options for reducing your risk of breast cancer with your doctor.