Are you worried that you are at risk for breast cancer?

Women in America have a 12% chance of a breast cancer diagnosis sometime within their lifetime. While women shouldn’t let the fear of cancer consume their lives, they should remain aware of the very real possibility. There are a variety of risk factors that can lead to breast cancer that women can and cannot control, so it is important to stay informed, maintain a healthy lifestyle and know the risks.

 

Risk Factors

  1. Age

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are 50 and over, and the risk continues to increase as you age.

  1. Ethnic Background

Caucasian women are the most likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, while African-American women are at greater risk of dying it. Native American, Asian, and Hispanic women are the least likely to develop the disease.

  1. Family History

The risk can be doubled if your first-degree relative has had the disease, but you may still get breast cancer without a family history.

  1. Genes

Mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene are the cause for a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer risk.

 

What Is a Significant Family History? 

Having a significant family history puts you and your blood relatives at increased risk of developing breast cancer. You may be considered to have a significant family history if:

  • a relative has had breast cancer before the age of 40
  • a relative has had breast cancer in both breasts
  • a male relative has had breast cancer
  • two or more relatives have had breast cancer
  • a relative has had breast or ovarian cancer

 

What should I do if I’m concerned?

Begin conducting breast self-exams as soon as possible to start familiarizing yourself with your body. If you have reason to be concerned, it is important to find out your level of risk by talking to your doctor or OB-GYN. If they believe you to be at risk, they may suggest genetic testing to find out if you have inherited an altered gene. Annual mammograms should begin at age 40, or earlier if you are deemed high risk, for greater chances of early detection. The best protection is early detection, so stay honest with yourself and your healthcare team.