Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

Nothing is more terrifying than the words, “You have breast cancer.” Yet nearly a quarter-million women in the U.S. will receive this diagnosis from their doctors in 2014. Over their lifetime, one in eight women will hear these dreaded words.

Fortunately, when it comes to breast cancer, women are fighters.

Many risk factors for breast cancer are beyond your control, but you CAN take steps to lessen the likelihood. How? Get informed and use the ammunition below to fight back.

Fight the Odds of Breast Cancer

  • Keep a healthy weight:  There is a strong link between obesity and breast cancer. So if you are overweight or obese – a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – ask your doctor about healthy weight loss strategies. Eating antioxidant-laden fruits and vegetables can aid with weight loss and may even inhibit cancer growth (the jury is still out).
  • Be active:  Physical activity and exercise can help you keep a healthy weight, putting you at lower risk for breast cancer.
  • Limit alcohol use: One to two glasses of alcohol a day increases your risk, so cut back on the amount and how often you drink.
  • Don’t put off having children:  Women who have children before age 35 lower their risk. (Childless women or those who have their first pregnancy after age of 35 are at higher risk.)
  • Breast feed your babies:  Not only is breastfeeding better for your baby, it also appears to lower your breast cancer odds.
  • Avoid post-menopausal hormone treatment: Taking hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal symptoms appears to increase breast cancer risk. Fortunately, this risk decreases when you stop taking these medications.
  • Schedule your mammograms: Getting regularly scheduled mammograms won’t lower your risk, but it will help detect cancer early, greatly improving your odds of beating the disease.

Cancer Risks You Can’t Control

There are some things in life beyond our control, which is why taking the preventive steps above is so important.  Here are known cancer risks:

  • Aging
  • A family history of breast or “reproductive cancers” – especially in a mother or aunt. This includes uterine, ovarian or colon cancer
  • Carrying the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.  If many women in your family have had breast cancer, it may be wise to test for this genetic mutation
  • Getting your periods before age 12, or going through menopause after age 55

If any of these risks apply to you, let your doctor know.  Being informed and vigilant is one reason breast cancer death rates have been going down. More than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. have battled breast cancer and won.

Meet the Author

Magdalena Flejsierowicz, MD is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic inside Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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