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Breast Cancer: Know the Risks (It could save your life!)

We made it to summer! Well, at least the “unofficial” start of it, and we’re so stoked to kick off a second summer with you and share more inspiration and information.

In past posts we've touched on some known risk factors and approaches to prevention but we want to provide a more inclusive list and bridge the two, as in some cases knowing the risk factors may help you prevent the start of breast cancer cell growth or in the least, lessen the risk.

So as most of us know, unfortunately there are certain risk factors that just are, and we cannot change them.

We'll call them "classic" factors, and according to some include: (Check out our Pink Awareness: Breast Cancer Breakdown post for more info on some of these risks!)

  • Being a woman

  • Age (The older you are your chances increase.)

  • Family history of breast cancer

  • Genetics (Similar to above, but more specific to abnormal genes like BRCA1 for instance.)

  • Personal history of breast cancer

  • Radiation to your chest or face before 30

  • Certain breast changes (For example, if you've been diagnosed with certain non-cancerous breast conditions which include the excessive growth of normal or abnormal-looking cells.)

  • Race/Ethnicity (For example, while Caucasian women are somewhat more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive breast cancer.)

  • Pregnancy history (For example, women who haven’t had a full-term pregnancy or bear their first child after 30 are at a higher risk.)

  • Menstrual history (For example, women who started menstruating younger than 12 have a higher risk later in life and women who go through menopause after 55 are also at a higher risk.)

  • Having dense breasts (Breasts with less fatty tissue and more non-fatty tissue can increase the risk of breast cancer up to 6 times while also making it more difficult for mammograms to detect it.)

Still, while we cannot change these particular risk factors, knowing you fall into any of the above categories hopefully will encourage you to participate in early detection screenings or conduct breast self-exams more regularly.

Now on the other hand, there are some risk factors that include outside elements that we can try to stay away from, helping to prevent the growth of breast cancer cells, or at least help us play defense against the spread of the cells once they have begun.

Some avoidable risk factors include:

  • Being overweight

  • Breastfeeding history (If you pass on the formula and opt to breastfeed you can lower your risk!)

  • Using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

  • Drinking alcohol

  • Lack of exercise

  • Smoking

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up this logic by suggesting the same set of factors as well as avoiding exposure to certain chemicals that cause cancer, which also includes in their list of newer and emerging risks found through the latest studies and research which include:

  • Low Vitamin D levels (Check out our Survivors on Science: Vitamin D Does Breast Cancer Good post for more on this!)

  • Light exposure at night (For example, women who work at night like factory workers or nurses, have a higher risk than women who work during the day.)

  • DES (Diethylstilbestrol) exposure (DES is a synthetic, non-steroidal estrogen that some pregnant women were given between the 1940s and 1960s to prevent miscarriage. DES is rarely used today but you are at higher risk if you took it or your mom took it while she was pregnant with you.)

  • Eating unhealthy food (Check our Preventing Breast Cancer: A Grocery Store Approach blog for more on this!)

  • Exposure to certain chemicals used in cosmetics, food, lawns/gardens, plastic (like BPA), sunscreen and water, as well as chemicals used while food is being grilled or prepared.

We are happy to send you off into the summer maybe just a bit better armed against the one thing we all want to take down! We’ll see you next time to introduce our June Survivor, until then as we always say, keep your eye on STRENGTH!

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