Well over 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in women, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a great time to learn the facts.
Keep reading to find out how to reduce your risk and ensure early detection for you and your loved ones.
Facts about Breast Cancer:
- According to the CDC, more than 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the United States each year.
- Breast cancer is more common in women ages 50 and older.
- Although breast cancer primarily affects women, men can get it, too.
- Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women who do not have a family history of the disease.
- Breast cancer is more prevalent in developed countries, probably because longer life expectancies make it more common for women to reach the ages when their risk of getting cancer is higher.
- Younger women who have a family history of breast cancer are more likely to be diagnosed.
- Even moderate alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in both younger and older women.
What causes breast cancer?
Some breast cancers are caused by a hereditary genetic mutation, but most are the result of a genetic mutation that occurs later in life. When these damaged cells begin to divide, they are considered cancerous and can create a tumor. These mutated cells can also travel to and affect other parts of the body. When this occurs, the cancer is said to have metastasized.
Reducing your risk:
Although nobody knows exactly what triggers the mutation that causes breast cancer, there are some risk factors that have been clearly identified. Minimizing or eliminating alcohol and quitting smoking are two of the best things you can do to reduce your risk. Being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle are also highly correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause.
The most effective way to fight breast cancer is with early detection. Women over age 50 should have a mammogram at least every two years, and younger women should perform a monthly breast self-exam and report any changes to their doctor.
Regardless of age, women with a family history of breast cancer should consult their primary care physician to find out whether regular mammograms are recommended.
If you are over 40 and cannot afford a mammogram, there are many programs that may help you get tested. One is the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. For more information, call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
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