October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in her life, but luckily the amount of deaths has been declining each year since 1989. Early detection is a huge part of this– technology is improving, there is more general awareness, and we can detect this type of cancer more efficiently and accurately earlier on. And, no surprise here, the earlier you are diagnosed and can begin treatment, the better your chances for long-term survival.
Who Gets Breast Cancer? 85% of cases occur in women who have no breast cancer history in their family. 15% of the time, they do. If you have an immediate family member who has had this type of cancer, your risk nearly doubles. Only 5-10% of women who develop breast cancer have the gene mutation BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 that predisposes them to it.
What are the Causes? Like most cancers, there is no direct cause. Age and sex are the two biggest factors. Gene mutation BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 predispose some women. Estrogen therapy has been targeted over the years as a cause of breast cancer, but it does not (in some women who are predisposed, hormone therapy will cause it to grow faster). If you have breast cancer in your family, hormone therapy might not be appropriate for you.
What can I do to Lower My Risk? Eat healthy, get exercise, quit smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, and reduce stress (this may help protect you from many types of illness and disease as well). If taking hormones, take the smallest dose possible in order to achieve the results, and make regular appointments with your doctor to monitor progress.