What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a term used to describe a disease characterized by abnormal cell growth in a part of the body, like the breast. A clump of abnormal cell growth is called a tumor. Tumors can either be benign (harmless) or malignant (harmful). Malignant tumors are harmful because they can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, affecting healthy cells. These affected body parts will develop secondary malignant tumors near the primary tumor site. Both men and women are susceptible to developing breast cancer, but the majority of cases occur in females. In fact, 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. The most commonly diagnosed cancer in women is breast cancer. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
To determine your risk level for breast cancer, consider these factors:
- Gender. Women are at the greatest risk for breast cancer. Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men.
- Age. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age because most cancers develop slowly over time. Women older than age 50 are at the greatest risk.
- First menstruation. Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 have a higher chance of developing breast cancer. The earlier a woman starts her period, the longer her exposure to the female hormone estrogen. There is a link between estrogen exposure and breast cancer.
How You Can Prevent Breast Cancer
Taking preventative measures can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer:
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if the weight gain occurred post-menopause.
- Stay active. An active lifestyle helps you maintain a healthy body weight, which reduces your risk of breast cancer.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Research confirms a link between breast cancer and alcohol consumption—the more you drink, the greater your risk. Limit yourself to less than 1 drink per day.
- Stop smoking. There are overwhelming amounts of evidence that suggest a relationship between smoking and breast cancer risk.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Some research suggests a correlation between breast cancer and radiation exposure. Limit your exposure to radiation by only getting x-rays when absolutely necessary.
Breast cancer is a tough topic to talk about, but knowledge is power. Use this knowledge and take preventative measures to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Don’t stress about things that may or may not happen—just take control now and be happy.