Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Research has found several risk factors that may increase your chances of getting breast cancer, including—
- Getting older.
- Being younger when you first had your menstrual period.
- Starting menopause at a later age.
- Being older at the birth of your first child.
- Never giving birth.
- Not breastfeeding.
- Personal history of breast cancer or some non-cancerous breast diseases.
- Family history of breast cancer (mother, sister, daughter).
- Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
- Being overweight (increases risk for breast cancer after menopause).
- Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone combined).
- Having changes in the breast cancer-related genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.
- Drinking alcohol (more than one drink a day).
- Not getting regular exercise.
Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease. Most women have some risk factors and most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
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Breast Cancer Fast Facts :
Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is—
- The most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.
- The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.
- The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.1
In 2008 (the most recent year numbers are available)—
- 210,203 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
- 40,589 women died from breast cancer.
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If you want to know more about breast cancer numbers, visit Statistics.
Can Men Get Breast Cancer?
Men can get breast cancer. In men, breast cancer can happen at any age, but is most common in men who are between 60 and 70 years old. Male breast cancer is not very common. For every 100 cases of breast cancer, less than 1 is in men.
For men, signs of breast cancer and treatment are almost the same as for women. For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute’s General Information About Male Breast Cancer.
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You can help lower your risk of breast cancer in the following ways—
- Get screened for breast cancer regularly. By getting the necessary exams, you can increase your chances of finding out early on, if you have breast cancer. For more information about the kinds of tests used to screen for breast cancer, and to learn how you can be screened.
- Control your weight and exercise.Make healthy choices in the foods you eat and the kinds of drinks you have each day. Stay active. Learn more about keeping a healthy weight and ways to increase your physical activity.
- Know your family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer, ask your doctor what is your risk of getting breast cancer and how you can lower your risk. For more information, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for information about medicines to prevent breast cancer and genetic testing for breast cancer.
- Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy Some women use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat the symptoms of menopause. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT and find out if hormone replacement therapy is right for you. To learn more about HRT, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—Menopausal Hormone Use and Cancer: Questions and Answers.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. For more information, see the Alcohol Chapter of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 [PDF-322KB].
Breast cancer is treated in several ways. It depends on the kind of breast cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biologic therapy, and radiation. People with breast cancer often get more than one kind of treatment.
- Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out and remove cancer tissue.
- Chemotherapy. Using special medicines, or drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given through an intravenous (IV) tube, or, sometimes, both.
- Hormonal therapy. Some cancers need certain hormones to grow. Hormonal treatment is used to block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
- Biological therapy. This treatment works with your body’s immune system to help it fight cancer or to control side effects from other cancer treatments. Side effects are how your body reacts to drugs or other treatments. Biological therapy is different from chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells directly.
- Radiation. The use of high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is located.
It is common for doctors from different specialties to work together in treating breast cancer. Surgeons are doctors that perform operations. Medical oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with medicines. Radiation oncologists are doctors that treat cancers with radiation.
For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – Breast Cancer Treatment Option Overview. This site can also help you find a doctor or treatment facility that works in cancer care. Visit Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment for more information about treatment and links that can help with treatment choices.
How Can I Help Others in My Community?
You can help prevent breast cancer in your community. Get involved in community groups that help friends and neighbors get screened for breast cancer, and reduce their risk by helping them exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
Join your community’s Comprehensive Cancer Control program. CDC supports Comprehensive Cancer Control (CCC) programs in all 50 states and many American Indian/Alaska Native tribes and U.S. territories. CCC programs bring together cancer experts, survivors, advocates, and other organizations to plan ways to prevent and control breast and other cancers. For more information, contact your local Comprehensive Cancer Control program.
Increase screening in your community. Giving information to members of your community through newsletters, brochures, and pamphlets is an effective way to increase use of screening services. Research has shown other activities by community groups are effective as well. For more information, see CDC’s Guide to Community Preventive Services. For tools, visit Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.
Encourage exercise in your neighborhood. Working with your community to provide better locations for physical activity, such as parks and sidewalks, is an effective way to increase activity. For more information, see CDC’s Guide to Community Preventive Services. For tools, visit Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.
Help members of your community maintain a healthy weight. Workplace programs to change diet and promote physical activity have been found to be effective. For more information on community efforts to support a healthy weight, visit CDC’s Guide to Community Preventive Services. For tools related to diet and physical activity, visit Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.
For more information about breast cancer prevention, visit the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Breast Cancer (PDQ): Prevention and the Community Guide to Preventive Services.
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