Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Risk Factors Associated with Breast Cancer

I was honored to be interviewed recently by Lauren McLane, editor of the Record Herald Newspaper, in the May 14, 2009, Relay for Life issue.  Entitled, "Cancer has many causes," this article highlights two types of risk factors associated with breast cancer, namely those that we can control and those that we cannot.  The article noted that I was diagnosed at age 43, and I was not in any of the categories usually associated with the risk of breast cancer.  Because  of that, I wanted other women to be aware that they, too, might be at risk.
The risk factors that we can control include the following: 
1.) Being overweight, especially after menopause, or gaining weight after menopause.
2.) Lack of exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends 45 to 60 minutes of intentional exercise five times a week. 
3.) Having more than one alcoholic drink per day.
4.) Never having children. 
5.) Undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
6.) Use of birth control pills. 
7.) Night shift work. Studies have suggested that working at night and sleeping during the day interferes with the body's ability to produce melatonin, a crucial hormone.

I was also asked to relate the factors that women can't control.  These include:
1.) Being a woman.  Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.
2.) Aging.  Getting older increases the chances dramatically.  Over a woman's lifetime, she has a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer.  At age 20, the risk is 1 in 1,837; at age 30, it's 1 in 234; at age 40, it's 1 in 70; at age 50, it's 1 in 40; at age 60, it's 1 in 28; and at age 70, it's 1 in 26.
3.) Having a mutated gene, including BRCA1 and BRCA2.
4.) A family history on either side, of having breast cancer.  A first degree relative - a mother, a sister, a daughter - nearly doubles the risk of breast cancer.
5.) Women who start menopause after age 55 or start menstruating before age 12  are at a higher risk.
6.) Having a first child after age 35.
7.) Having a high breast density on a mammogram.
8.) Treatment for Hodgkin's disease.
9.) A personal history of breast or ovarian cancer.

"Holmes encourages all women, especially those younger than 40, to perform routine breast self-exams, to have yearly checkups with a doctor and get regular mammograms (starting at age 40).
"Some women are leery of mammograms, fearing that the radiation from the procedure is a risk.  Studies have shown, however, that the amount of radiation is a safe level.
"The benefits of early detection absolutely outweigh the risks."
I concluded the article with this statement, "Do as much as you can to prevent it - exercise, lose weight, eat healthy.  Fear is our worst enemy."

I would be happy to discuss the above article, risk factors, or any other questions with you! 

1 comment:

Cindy Pinsonnault said...

Thank you for posting this information. There is so much misleading information out there. It's nice to read something that is simple, sensible and easy to understand.