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Breast Cancer: Controllable Risk Factors

by Louise October 16th, 2013 | Health Observance, Prevention
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pink ribbonThe statistics related to breast cancer are staggering: one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s time to take a second look at what women can do to reduce their risk. Some factors are not preventable. The first and foremost factor is of course gender: females are 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer. Other genetic factors include age, family history, and gene mutations that put some individuals at a higher risk. However, there are other risk factors that are avoidable; they are called environmental and lifestyle risk factors:

  • Sedentary Lifestyle.  The American Institute for Cancer Research has linked a lack of physical exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is also linked with other risk factors, such as obesity. Conversely, exercising regularly (four hours of strenuous exercise each week) has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer by the National Cancer Institute.
  • Being Overweight. Obesity increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer, specifically with regard to gaining weight after menopause. A 2006 study reported by BBC News indicated that gaining just a moderate amount of weight (22 lbs.) after menopause can increase a woman’s risk by 18%.
  • Poor Diet. A diet high in nutrients, such as beta-carotene and Vitamin A, and low in saturated fat has been suggested to reduce one’s risk of developing breast cancer. What fruits and vegetables can you bring into your diet?
  • Drinking Alcohol. Alcohol consumption has been linked to greater risk for breast cancer. Frequent consumption increases the risk, and the risk continues to grow with increased intake. Because the alcohol is “dose-dependent” as a risk factor, limiting intake is the best option.
  • Radiation to the Chest. Sometimes radiation therapy is part of medical treatment, but having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 is another risk factor for breast cancer. Especially if breast cancer runs in your family, you should check to see if there are any alternatives to the treatment.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Combined HRT is sometimes prescribed for menopause. Unfortunately, the therapy can increase one’s risk for breast cancer and also the risk that the cancer will be at a more advanced state if detected. Women considering HRT should be aware of this risk and take appropriate precautions.

This list of controllable risk factors is based on risk factors as described by the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Not all risk factors of breast cancer are controllable, which makes controlling the ones that are that much more important.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.