Breast cancer is a deadly disease that haunts far too many people; today 3 million women are living with breast cancer in the United States alone. Can breast cancer be prevented? There is no definite way of preventing breast cancer, but the American Cancer Association recommends being aware of potential risks that increase your chances of being diagnosed. Lowering your risk can be especially helpful for women who have a family history of breast cancer.
Preventable Risk Factors
Many factors that may make you more susceptible to breast cancer are related to parts of your daily life. By being aware of the potential risk, you can be proactive and monitor your intake on the following activities.
Obesity increases your risk for a myriad of health problems, including breast cancer. This most notably increases the risk for women who become obese later in life and especially after menopause. The fat cells in post menopausal women produce all the estrogen and if you’re overweight, your body can overproduce estrogen and make you more susceptible to being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Over Consumption of Alcohol
Large amounts of alcohol increase your cancer risk so doctors recommend that if you are an excessive drinker to cut down on your habits. Drinking moderately and responsibly is generally fine as long as you stay aware of your body’s changes.
Childbirth, especially a first child after the age of 30 can play a part in increasing your risk. Additionally, the American Cancer Society stated that having multiple children and being pregnant at an early age can in fact reduce your overall risk of breast cancer. However, the effects of pregnancy vary across different forms of breast cancer. Breast feeding for a year or more can also reduce your risk.
This applies to both oral contraceptives and the shot; few studies have looked into the correlation with birth control implants. Studies have also shown that after stopping the use of birth control, your risk goes back down as time passes. However, it is also important to consider the benefits of birth control such as the immediate benefits and the long-term effects of lowering the risk of ovarian, colon and uterine cancer.
Hormone Therapy After Menopause
This typically serves as a short term solution to the effects of menopause, but some studies have shown that the long term use of hormone therapy can actually increase your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The risk is mostly on recent and current users; within five years the risk returns to the population standard.
This is one of few health boosters that help almost any health problem you may be battling. Women who participate in physical exercise for 30 minutes every day have a lower risk of breast cancer. A beneficial side product of this physical activity is the additional aid in weight loss.
If you have a strong prevalence of cancer through your family history you can maintain extra awareness and be ready to test yourself sooner rather than later. Women may be at a higher risk if their mother or sister have had breast cancer. Dr. Miltenburg will help you understand your family history and whether or not you may be more susceptible than others to breast cancer.
Additionally, it is important to remember screening. Though it doesn’t directly prevent cancer, catching it early has proven to save lives by undergoing treatment early. Most women begin regular mammograms around the age of 40.
Unfortunately, preventing breast cancer isn’t always in your control. There are certain risk factors that are out of your control which is why it is critical to put yourself in the best care possible as early as possible. Some of these risk factors include:
- Menopause over the age of 55
- First childbirth after 35
- Dense breast tissue
- Being 5’8” or taller
- History of benign breast disease or family history of cancer
For questions or concerns regarding breast cancer risk factors or preventing breast cancer, please do not hesitate to contact The Breast Health Institute of Houston. We are a private surgical practice committed specifically to patient care relating to breast health. Dr. Miltenburg and The Breast Institute staff are more than happy to help guide you through any health concerns you may have.