Scientists don’t yet fully understand how or why breast cancer develops, but research points to some well-described risk factors that include:
- Increasing age
- Older age at first full-term pregnancy
- Family history of breast cancer
- Use of hormone therapy
- Genetic mutations
- Obesity (postmenopausal women)
- Early menarche (before age 12 years)
- Late menopause (after age 54 years)
- Toxic exposures (“xenobiotics,” or endocrine disruptors, radiation)
- Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage a day
Some of these risk factors can’t be changed, but just because someone has a risk factor for breast cancer doesn’t mean they will get the disease. For example, dietary and lifestyle factors far outweigh the impact our genes (family history) play in health and illness.
Early Detection MATTERS
You might be able to lessen your chances of getting breast cancer by following some well-known health guidelines. Of note, early life choices can shape health later in life, so helping our children develop good nutritional and lifestyle habits can literally save their lives. Recommendations include:
- Eat a healthy, varied, and well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits (dark berries) and vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts), whole grains, and good sources of omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish).
- Get moving (exercise may help prevent breast cancer).
- Limit alcohol intake (no more than one small drink every other night, and less is even better).
- Enjoy 1-2 cups of green tea each day.
- Expose your skin to direct sunlight for 15 minutes each day, and consider taking supplemental vitamin D3 (speak with your doctor first).
- Breastfeed your babies.
- Maintain a healthy body weight (especially postmenopausal women).
Hopefully you will never experience breast cancer, but it’s important to remember that more and more people who have received a breast cancer diagnosis are living long and healthy lives following treatment. Catching breast cancer early is one of the keys to a good prognosis. Depending on your age, your doctor may recommend that you get a regular mammogram, and may perform a thorough breast examination during your annual physical.
The American Cancer Society web site is a terrific source of information on breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer prevention and treatment. Visit http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp on the web, or call 1-800-ACS-2345 to speak to an American Cancer Society representative.
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **