So what do we know about breast cancer? These are the known factors that seem to increase your risk of breast cancer:
- Your risk increases as you get older. The majority of breast cancer occurs in women older than 50.
- About 5 to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary. The most common cause is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
- White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer.
- Women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk.
- Women who started menstruating before age 12 and/or went through menopause after age 55, have a slightly higher risk.
- Women who, as children or young adults, had radiation therapy to the chest area as treatment for another cancer are at an increased risk.
- From the 1940's through the 1960's some pregnant women were given the drug DES because it was thought to lower their chances of miscarriage. These women have an increased risk.
- Women who have had no children or had their first child after 30 have a slightly higher risk.
- Use of post menopausal hormone therapy increases risk.
- Use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol you consume. Women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1 1/2 times the risk of women who drink no alcohol.
- Being overweight or obese, especially after menopause, increases risk. Experts say 1/3 of breast cancer cases in the U.S. could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more.
- Lack of physical activity increases risk. The Women's Health Initiative Study says 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours per week of brisk walking reduces your risk by 18%.
- There may be a link between high dairy intake and breast cancer according to Harvard's School of Public Health. Their studies show the hormones in milk may increase breast cancer risk.
- Studies of fat in the diet have not been clearly shown to increase your risk. Although most studies have found that breast cancer is less common in countries where the typical diet is low in fat, many studies in the U.S. have not found a direct correlation to high fat diets and increased risk.
- There is little evidence that wearing bras causes breast cancer by obstructing lymph flow.
- No clear links have been established to chemicals in the environment as causing an increased risk thus far, although studies are ongoing. It is noted that there has been some concern by scientists that the chemical BPA may increase breast cancer risk.
- Most studies have found no link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer. Research is ongoing as to whether secondhand smoke increases your risk.
- There is no conclusive evidence that artificial sweeteners are associated with breast cancer.
Dr. Susan Love hopes her research will lead to a vaccine that will prevent cancer. She has created the Love/Avon Army of Women research project. Her goal is to recruit 1 million women to participate in breast cancer research to learn how to prevent the disease. 380,000 women have joined thus far. They are recruiting women of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, who are healthy or have a breast cancer history, to join. As a member of her army, you agree to be emailed about breast cancer studies in need of volunteers. Some of the studies involve filling out questionnaires, others require samples of blood, urine or saliva. You choose which study you want to participate in.
We need each other to help fight breast cancer. Join the Army of Women at www.armyofwomen.org.