The awareness and hype around breast cancer is not for nothing. Breast cancer has earned the title of the second most common form of cancer in the US among women. Thus, it is advisable to be aware of all the risk factors that increase the chances of breast cancer.
Risk factors that increase the chances of breast cancer
There are some risk factors that cannot be changed or altered. These include gender, age, and family history and genetics. Studies over a period of time have shown that older women are more at risk, especially post-menopausal. Family history, with any first relative such as mother, sister, or daughter having suffered from breast cancer, increases your chances too. Other factors such as dense breasts and ethnicity or race also increase the chances of contracting the cancer. White women are more likely to suffer from the cancer compared to Asian, Hispanic, and African American women.
Ways to decrease the chances of breast cancer
Besides the above reasons, there are a few other risk factors that increase the chances of developing breast cancer. Most of these factors are lifestyle conditions and are within our control to alter. Thus, addressing these factors decreases the risk.
- Alcohol consumption
Limiting alcohol intake can positively impact the chances of developing cancer. Studies have shown that even a small amount of alcohol increases the risk.
- Obesity and weight management
Chances of breast cancer increase in those who are obese and overweight, especially in those women who put on weight post-menopause. In fact, leading an active life has various health benefits, one of them being reducing the risk of breast cancer.
A direct link has been identified between smoking and breast cancer, especially in premenopausal women.
Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer. The protective effect is more if you breastfeed longer.
- Hormone therapy – duration and dose
The risk of breast cancer increases if you are on combination hormone therapy for approximately three to five years. Taking hormone therapy for symptoms of menopause must be opted for with a doctor’s consent, for a short-term therapy and in lower doses. Ideally, the hormone therapy can be replaced with non-hormonal therapy if possible.
- Radiation and environmental pollution
Research has revealed a connection between exposure to high radiation and breast cancer. Medical tests, like computerized tomography, make use of very high doses of radiation. Such tests must be carried out only when absolutely necessary.
Lifestyle changes to reduce breast cancer risk
Apart from taking steps against the above risk factors, healthy lifestyle changes, when implemented, can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. A healthy diet, preferably the Mediterranean diet, comprising extra virgin olive oil, mixed nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, can lower the chances of developing breast cancer. Regular exercising and staying fit also help with long-term benefits.
Breast cancer risks can be lowered by keeping in mind the above-mentioned factors that increase the chances of developing breast cancer. Additionally, being vigilant and getting regular checkups and tests post-menopause help too.