As one of the most studied types of cancer, there is a significant amount of information and research that you can lean on to educate and empower yourself about your chance of getting breast cancer. Your risk of developing breast cancer is dependent on a number of factors, some of which you can control. Here are six of the biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer that you should be aware of as you age.
The most overriding factor determining the odds that you receive a breast cancer diagnosis is your age. The chances of being diagnosed with this form of cancer go up exponentially once you reach the age of 50. While breast cancer rates are much lower in women under the age of 50, it is still possible to be diagnosed with this type of cancer at younger ages.
Unfortunately, there is a strong genetic component in some types of breast cancer. Having a family history of cancer is a strong risk factor, particularly if the relative is a mother, sister, or daughter. The odds also increase if multiple members on either side of the family have had breast or ovarian cancer. In addition, a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises the risk.
Women who have dense breasts are more likely than females with fatty breasts to get breast cancer. Dense breasts contain more connective tissue than fatty tissue, making it more difficult to spot the tumors on a standard mammogram. This also makes it more likely that it will be challenging to diagnose breast cancer in the early stages of development.
If you have a past history of breast cancer, there is a higher chance that you develop it again. In addition, some types of non-cancerous breast diseases, including atypical hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma, also come with a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
Your personal reproductive history can also influence the likelihood that you receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Beginning your menstrual period prior to age 12 and not entering menopause until after age 55 raises your risk of getting breast cancer. This is because the body is exposed to hormones longer.
While you cannot control when you begin menstruation and when you start menopause, you do have some amount of control over when you experience your first pregnancy and if you decide to breastfeed. Having your first baby after the age of 30 or not choosing to breastfeed can raise the risk of breast cancer because of the hormonal protection offered by these events.
One of the risk factors that are within your control to change is your overall health habits. Being overweight will drastically boost the odds that you get breast cancer. Being mindful about your weight and doing what you can to stay within a healthy range can improve the chances that you never receive this dreaded diagnosis.
Related to your overall health is your physical activity level. Women who live a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to get breast cancer compared to those who are diligent about staying active through physical exercise. You can improve your breast health by making physical activity a part of your regular lifestyle.
When to Get Help
When it comes to your breast health, you can never be too careful. If you notice any changes in your breasts, it is imperative that you seek the advice of a women’s health specialist group. Finding a professional that you can connect with will ensure that your breast health is in good hands.
Your doctor will be able to provide specific recommendations on when you should begin regular breast cancer screenings. Because the recommendations may differ between individuals, it is important that you understand your own personal risk and make decisions about preventative care based on this.
While you cannot control all of the risk factors, there are definitive steps that you can take to guard your breast health both now and as you get older. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to do what you can to live a long and healthy life.