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If your mother had breast cancer, you have an increased chance of developing it yourself. Knowing your family history, understanding your personal risk, getting appropriate screening tests, and making lifestyle choices are important steps toward good breast health, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer, a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control, is a disease dreaded by most women. This life-threatening condition affects millions of women and claimed the lives of more than 600,000 women across the world in 2018 alone. Imagine how many have succumbed to this condition since then.
There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer.
Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breast. A breast is made up of three main parts: lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. The lobules are the glands that produce milk. The ducts are tubes that carry milk to the nipple. The connective tissue (which consists of fibrous and fatty tissue) surrounds and holds everything together. Most breast cancers begin in the ducts or lobules.
Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is said to have metastasized.
Although breast cancer can also occur in men, this type of cancer is more common among women, especially those who are over 40 years of age. Given that a cure is yet to be discovered, women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer can undergo grueling treatments.
It is imperative that women take measures to reduce their risks of developing breast cancer.
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Other factors that increase the risk of developing breast cancer are:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Overweight or obesity
- Some hormone replacement therapy after menopause
- First pregnancy after age 30
- No full-term pregnancy
- Not breastfeeding
- Drinking alcohol
- Senior years
- Inherited genetic changes
- Dense breasts
- Family history of cancer, particularly ovarian and breast cancers
- Radiation therapy before age 30
Breast Cancer Prevention
Here are some ways you can lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Keep A Healthy Weight
Being overweight, or more so if you are obese, can increase your risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. Excess body fat also has other negative impacts on your health, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory issues, and osteoarthritis.
Extra body fat increases your body’s estrogen and insulin levels. High levels of these hormones have been associated with breast cancer, so if you are in your 40s or beyond, you must watch your weight. Although losing weight is more difficult as you age, it is not impossible. Making small but consistent changes to your diet and physical activities goes a long way.
Be Physically Active
This point goes hand in hand with the first one. Being physically active can help prevent breast cancer, and make you feel good! Regularly doing physical activities can help keep you in shape and avoid gaining extra weight.
You don’t have to be a gym-goer to check this box. You can do light exercises, sit less, go for a walk, take a yoga class, or do some household chores like vacuuming or mowing the lawn. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 20 years old or well over 40, exercising is something you should include in your daily routine to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
Lung cancer and other respiratory problems are well-known effects of smoking, but did you know that it can also increase your risk of breast cancer?
A 2017 study published in Breast Cancer Research confirmed smoking to be a high breast cancer risk. The Generations Study noted that women who started smoking at a young age had up to 24% increased risk of developing breast cancer. Those who smoked for at least 10 years had a 21% increased risk. Even those who had quit the habit were still predisposed.
However, that doesn’t spell the end if you are a smoker. It just goes to show the dangers associated with this bad habit. If you need more reasons to stop smoking, then you can add this threat to your list.
Drinking too much alcohol can predispose you to breast cancer. This is because alcoholic beverages can increase the level of hormones that have been linked to hormone-receptor-positive cells of breast cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health issues, such as liver disease, heart disease, and digestive problems.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s wine, beer, or liquors, it’s not the type of alcohol but the amount of alcohol you consume that increases your risk.
It is in the interest of your health to limit your alcohol consumption or stop drinking alcohol completely. It will not only reduce your risk of breast cancer but also other types of cancer involving the colon, liver, esophagus, throat, and mouth.
If breast cancer runs in your family, understanding your risk and how to approach your breast health is important to both your physical and emotional well-being. There are uncontrollable and controllable risk factors. Some women have a higher risk of developing breast cancer because of factors that are beyond their control, such as age and genetics. However, there are controllable risk factors.
By keeping an eye on your weight, being physically active, not smoking or drinking, or at least drinking moderately, you’ll have a much higher chance of protecting yourself against this type of cancer.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, you may have a high risk of getting breast cancer. You may also have a high risk for ovarian cancer.
Act as early as possible and whenever you notice anything that’s not normal with your breasts, consult your doctor immediately. Inquire about ways to reduce your risks, such as medicines that block or decrease estrogen in your body, or surgery.