October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer affects both men and women. In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. It is estimated that each year, more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer. In men, it is estimated that approximately 2,600 will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 440 will die each year.

The great news is there are over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today and there has been a gradual decline in the female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection. Increased awareness and continually improving treatment options along with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause have also been cited as contributing factors to this decline.

Know the risk factors. Even if you do not have the risk factors, you are still at risk. If you have one, or several, risk factors you may never get breast cancer

Environmental and lifestyle risk factors that can be changed:

  • Lack of physical activity: sedentary lifestyle increases risk
  • Poor diet: diets high in saturated fats and lacking fruits and vegetables
  • Being overweight or obese: risk increases even higher if you have already gone through menopause
  • Alcohol consumption: the more you consume, the greater the risk
  • Radiation to the chest: increased risk if done before the age of 30
  • Combined hormone replacement therapy

Genetic risk factors that cannot be changed:

  • Gender: women are at greater risk than men
  • Age: two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55
  • Family history and genetic factors: family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Personal health history: having breast cancer in one breast increases the risk of having it in the other breast. Also, if abnormal breast cells have been detected before.
  • Menstrual and reproductive history: menstruation before age 12 and menopause after 55, having first child at an older age or never having given birth
  • Certain genome changes: mutation in certain genes
  • Dense breast tissue can make lumps harder to detect.

Early detection is key. Monthly self breast examinations and mammograms as recommended by your physician. Talk to your PHS health care provider about your risks and what you can do to reduce your risks.