It’s October, which means you are most likely seeing more pink than usual. But pink has purpose.
This is the time of year we highlight the second leading cause of death and most common cancer among American women, breast cancer.
It is imperative that women — and men — understand the importance of early detection and treatment. Approximately 220,000 women in the United States alone will experience a breast cancer diagnosis this year. Unfortunately, more that 40,000 of these diagnoses will result in death. But women aren’t the only ones affected. Approximately 2,150 men also fight this cancer yearly.
Although the exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, there are some genetic and environmental risk factors to be aware of:
- Gender: Women are 100 times more likely to be diagnosed.
- Age: Two-thirds of women are diagnosed after age 55.
- Race: Caucasian women are affected most often.
- Family History: You have a higher risk for breast cancer if other family members have been diagnosed.
- Personal Health History: If breast cancer has been found in one breast, you are more likely to be diagnosed in the other breast.
- Menstrual and Reproductive History: Having a menstrual cycle before the age of 12 and after the age of 55 puts you at a greater risk for breast cancer. You are also at a greater risk if you have never given birth or if you have a child at an older age.
- Genome Changes: Specific gene mutations — which can be detected with genetic tests — increase your risk for cancer.
- Dense Breast Tissue: Lumps are harder to find if you have dense breast tissue.
Environmental Factors (Avoidable)
- Lack of Physical Activity: Not being active will put you at a higher risk for cancer.
- Poor Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in saturated fat can make contribute to a higher risk for breast cancer.
- Being Overweight: Keeping your weight in the normal range can lower your risk for breast cancer.
- Alcohol Consumption: Your risk is greater if you consume alcohol frequently.
- Radiation: You can have a greater risk for breast cancer if your chest has been exposed to radiation therapy.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: This therapy (usually prescribed during menopause) can lead to a greater risk for cancer.
Bottom line: Go ahead and get checked. You do have a say in the future of your health. Take the precautions you can to decrease your chance of breast cancer, and help put an end to this epidemic.