According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, after skin cancer. Breast cancer also accounts for more than 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed among American women. Furthermore, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer during her lifetime, and the older you get, the greater your chances. This is demonstrated by figures from the American Cancer Society for 2000-2004, which show “95% of new cases and 97% of breast cancer deaths occurred in women aged 40 and older.”
Breast cancer sufferers rarely have symptoms. The most common sign is a thickening or lump in the breast. So, for those who develop it, their best chance of survival comes from monthly self breast examinations, early detection through mammograms, and prompt treatment. Those three reasons are in fact the reasons why breast cancer has been steadily declining; however, you need to keep in mind American women suffer more incidences of breast cancer than any other nation.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
To give you a heads up on breast cancer, it helps if you know the risk factors. However, even if you have risk factors, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to get cancer. Risk factors include:
- Age. As you age your risk for breast cancer increases, and by the time you are forty your chances of breast cancer are 1 in 68; at fifty years old, 1 in 37; at sixty years old, 1 in 26; and, at seventy, chances are 1 in 24 of you having breast cancer. The overall lifetime risk is 1 in 8.
- Alcohol. The more alcohol you drink the greater your risk for breast cancer.
- Birth Control. Some studies show a woman has an increased risk for breast cancer if she takes birth control pills for more than fifteen years.
- Children. Not having children or having them later in life increases your risk for breast cancer.
- Gender. If you are female you automatically have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Genetics. Some breast cancer is thought to be genetic.
- History of Beast Cancer. If your mother or sisters have had breast cancer, you are more likely to develop breast cancer.
- HRT Therapy. The long you take Hormone Replacement Therapy to help relieve menopausal symptoms and prevent osteoporosis, the higher your risk for breast cancer.
- Menstrual Periods. Women who start their periods before age twelve or women who begin menopause after age fifty-five are at greater risk for breast cancer.
- Race. If you are White you have a slightly greater chance of developing cancer than African American women, but more African American women die from breast cancer because they usually develop a more aggressive type than White women.
- Sedentary. If you don’t exercise, it increases your chances of breast cancer.
- Weight. If you are overweight after menopause you have a greater risk of developing breast cancer because fat tissue produces estrogen.
Factors that Lower Your Risk
The following things that have been shown to lower your risk for breast cancer include:
- Breast Feeding. Women who breastfeed show a slightly lower risk for developing breast cancer than those who don’t breastfeed.
- Cruciferous Vegetables. According to News-Medical.Net, cruciferous vegetables have compounds that protect the breast and lower incidences of cancer by as much as 50 percent.
- Exercise.Women who exercise boost their immune systems also reduce their levels of cancer-causing estrogens.
- Few Fats in Your Diet. There seems to be a diminished breast cancer risk for women who maintain a low-fat diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends you limit “fat intake to less than 35 percent of your daily calories and restrict foods high in saturated fat.”
- Healthy Weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to develop breast cancer, so, if you’re overweight, lose it. There’s no magic pill, which means you need to exercise and eat less. That’s all there is to it!
- Legumes. According to University of Texas researchers, eating a half cup of legumes each day could lessen your breast cancer chances by 30 percent.
- Lignans. Many studies are showing the benefits of lignans in fighting breast cancer. Lignans are phytoestrogens, which act like estrogen but also contain antioxidants. Lignans have been shown to reduce incidences of breast cancer and reduce and slow cancerous breast tumors themselves. Additionally, because antioxidants are present in lignans, they prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, which improves immunity and further decreases chances for breast cancer. Lignans are found in flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds, as well as certain cereals, such as wheat, oat, rye, and barley. Pumpkins, broccoli, and some berries also contain lignans.
- Teen Pregnancy. Although I’m not advocating teen pregnancy, I thought this was interesting. Some recent studies have shown teenagers who get pregnant are less likely to develop breast cancer later in life than those who don’t.