Are you at risk for breast cancer?
The short answer is yes! Anyone – women or men – can develop the disease at any stage of their lives. However, there are factors that may increase your chances of getting the disease.
Breast cancer is the focus of many studies by a wide range of health organizations. One thing we know for sure about the disease is who has a greater risk of developing it. We’re still working on the why, but science is also getting closer to answering that crucial question. While men can and do get breast cancer, this article will focus on women, whose risk is much higher. Do you fall into one of these groups?
1. Women with a Specific Ethnic Identity.
According to the National Cancer Institute, white, non-Hispanic women and African-American women lead other ethnic groups in the U.S. with the highest overall rate of breast cancer. By 2015, the incidence rates for each group had almost converged at just under 130 per 100,000 women. Tumors in African-American women are more likely to occur at a younger age, and they have a 40% higher death rate than white women. Hispanics, Asians, and North American native populations have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
2. Women with a Family History of Breast Cancer.
According to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, your chances of developing breast cancer double if a close blood relative (defined as mother, sister, or daughter) has also had it. The risk is five times greater if two of these family members have been afflicted with the disease.
In the case of a family connection to breast cancer, research indicates that a mutation in specific genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) may be a significant factor.
3. Women of a Certain Age.
If only we could find that elusive fountain of youth. Until we do, women must face the reality that aging is associated with a breast cancer diagnosis. The risk rises from about 1 percent for a 20-something to about 77 percent at age 50+.
4. Women with a Personal History of the Disease.
While it doesn’t seem fair, women who have already had breast cancer run a higher risk of getting it again. An increased risk also applies to women who may have had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts for any reason when they were younger. Follow-up care and heightened awareness are essential if you are a breast cancer survivor.
5. Women Who Do Not Have Children.
Not having had children slightly increases the risk of breast cancer, as does having your first child after age 30. Conversely, if you did have children and breast fed them, you may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Whether or not you fall into one of these groups, there are positive steps you can take to reduce your overall risk of getting breast cancer. These are the same habits that are associated with healthy living in general: Watch your weight, exercise, and limit or abstain from alcohol.
Finally, have a frank discussion with your doctor about how to reduce the odds of getting the diagnosis no one wants to hear.
SEER Cancer Statistics Review