Numerous factors impact the possibility that a woman will be confronted with a diagnosis of breast cancer during her life. However, there are steps every woman can take to reduce her risk and promote overall health. This year, for National Women’s Health Week, we would like to share some of the steps you can take lower your risk of breast cancer.
Researchers have identified multiple risk factors that increase a woman’s chances for developing breast cancer.
What are breast cancer risk factors you cannot change?
While women have control over some risk factors, there are some that they have no control over. Some risk factors include:
- Age – Risk for developing breast cancer grows with age. Approximately two-thirds of invasive breast cancers are diagnosed in women age 55 and older.
- Genetics – Inherited mutations to certain genes, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, can significantly increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.
- Family history – Women with first-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age are at higher risk for developing breast cancer themselves.
- Race and ethnicity – Women from certain ethnic backgrounds, such as Ashkenazi Jewish, are at higher risk for developing breast cancer than others.
What breast cancer risk factors can you change?
A large percentage of cancers, not just breast cancers, are linked to certain lifestyle choices. By engaging in behaviors that promote overall health and wellbeing, women can reduce their risk for breast cancer. Here are several steps you can take.
- Exercise – A growing body of evidence suggests that routine exercise and a physically active lifestyle can help to reduce risk for breast cancer. Walking just 2.5 hours per week can reduce risk by up to 18 percent, according to one study. Additionally, some research suggests that overweight and obese women are at increased risk for developing breast cancer.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption – It is no secret that smoking can lead to many harmful health conditions. Some research has shown that heavy smoking can increase your chances for developing breast cancer. One study found that new cases were 24 percent higher in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition to smoking, excessive drinking can increase risk for developing breast cancer. Research has shown that women who consume 2 to 5 alcoholic beverages per day are about 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not drink.
Understanding personal risk factors for breast cancer can help women to make healthy decisions that promote overall health and reduce their risk for breast cancer. For National Women’s Health Week, we encourage all women to learn more about their chances for developing breast cancer and what they can do to prevent it.
If you have questions about breast cancer risk or if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, please contact us.