Assessing Breast Cancer Risk Factors in Your Life

breast cancer riskAlthough breast cancer death rates have declined since 1989, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that about 268,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will still be diagnosed this year, and more than 41,000 women will die of it.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer?

Recognizing Your Cancer Risk
Some breast cancer risks cannot be controlled. According to the ACS, these include: age, personal or family history of breast cancer, inheriting certain genes, certain types of abnormal breast changes, and dense breast tissue.

A woman’s menstrual and reproductive history also affect risk. Having your first menstrual period before the age of 12 or reaching menopause after age 55 increases the risk, as does never having children or having children after the age of 30. (Having a baby before the age of 20, though, decreases the risk.)

Lowering Your Risk
There are a number of lifestyle decisions that you can make, however, that can lower your breast cancer risk. These include:
Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. If you’re looking to shed some pounds, start by reexamining your food choices. Focus on a diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Also keep in mind that to lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in. 
Getting plenty of physical activity: Women who haven’t been physically active throughout their lives have a higher risk for breast cancer. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Break down the 150 minutes into as many shorter sessions as needed—every little bit counts toward your weekly total.
Reducing alcohol intake: The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk for breast cancer. Limit yourself to one drink per day.

Another way to reduce your risk? Mammograms. This screening test helps catch breast cancer even before the first symptoms appear. Ask your health care provider when you should start getting mammograms and how often you need one.

Checking Cancer-Related Genes

Certain gene mutations increase your risk of developing breast cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may want to consider genetic counseling.

  • Click here to learn more about Norwalk Hospital's genetic counselors and the services we offer.
  • Click here to learn more about Danbury Hospital's genetic counselors and the services we offer.