- Breast cancer is incredibly common, with one in eight women developing it in their lifetime.
- There are certain factors that will increase your risk of developing the disease.
- From smoking to genetics, here are 12 things that are tied to breast cancer.
Those statistics sound scary. There are actually certain factors, however, that make you more or less likely to develop breast cancer, and many of them are under your control.
Here are a few things that are actually died to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your chances of getting breast cancer.
Drinking alcohol has been associated with a moderately increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as other cancers including liver, bowel, and mouth cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, the risk goes up with every additional unit of alcohol you consume per day. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans classify moderate drinking as consuming one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.
You’re more at risk of breast cancer if you have dense breasts.
Dense breasts contain more fibrous tissue and gland tissue than less dense breasts, which have more fat.
According to the American Cancer Society, having dense breast tissue makes you more likely to develop breast cancer and can make it much harder to detect cancerous changes using a mammogram. Some research suggests that women with dense breast tissue may be up to six times more likely to develop breast cancer.
However, having dense breast tissue is very common and shouldn’t stop anyone from continuing to have regular mammograms.
Ionizing radiation has been shown to increase cancer risk.
According to Breast Cancer Care, sources of ionizing radiation such as radiotherapy to the chest area or medical x-rays do increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
However, there is no solid evidence to support the claim that non-ionizing radiation (e.g. the kind emitted by microwaves and laptop computers) increases the risk of breast cancer.
Taller women may be more likely to develop breast cancer.
A recent report by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research found that there is evidence that being taller than average may increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer both before and after menopause.
Research has also found that higher birthweight is correlated to higher risk of some cancers, including breast cancer.
Your pregnancy history can impact your cancer risk.
Women who have not had children or have their first pregnancy after the age of 30 may be somewhat more at risk of getting breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, having fewer menstrual cycles may be part of the reason why pregnancy decreases the risk of breast cancer.
Another reason may be that that breast cells mature during pregnancy, which may make them less likely to become cancerous. In fact, research shows that the younger you are when you have your first child, the lower your risk of breast cancer.
Getting your period at a young age could increase your risk.
The age you started your period might impact your risk of getting breast cancer. According to Breast Cancer Care, people who begin menstruating before the age of 12 might have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. This is throught to be because they are exposed to estrogen for longer than women who have their periods later.
Breastfeeding might help reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.
Breastfeeding or nursing a baby may help protect people against breast cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, breastfeeding may lower the levels of some cancer-related hormones in your body and clear out cells in your breasts that may have DNA damage. There are also benefits to the baby including a stronger immune system and a decreased likelihood of obesity later in life.
Smoking can cause several types of cancer, including breast cancer.
Most people are probably aware of the link between smoking and lung cancer, but recent research also points to a connection between tobacco use and breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco smoke contains at least 70 known cancer-causing chemicals. Additionally, the aerosols used in e-cigarettes or vapes also contain toxic or carcinogenic chemicals, though in lower amounts than traditional cigarettes.
One study on the link between breast cancer and smoking found that people diagnosed with breast cancer who had previously smoked more than 30 packs a year had a 37% increased risk of breast cancer recurrence and 54% increased risk of dying from breast cancer.
Taking a contraceptive pill slightly increases your risk of breast cancer.
Research has shown there is link between using a hormonal contraceptive pill and developing breast cancer. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that breast cancer rates were higher among women who used or recently used hormonal contraceptives than those who had never used them. Furthermore, the risk seemed to increase with longer duration use.
However, the overall increase in the risk are small and Harvard Medical School noted that a woman’s risk generally returns to normal between 5 and 10 years after she stops taking hormonal birth control.
Having certain genes increases your risk.
Researchers have identified certain genes that increase breast cancer risk. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that are associated with a greater likelihood of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and several other cancers. Men with these genes are also more likely to develop breast cancer.
Though these genes do increase the risk of cancer, the US National Library of Medicine advised that having these genes doesn’t mean you will definitely develop breast cancer.
If someone in your family has had breast cancer, you are more at risk.
There is a connection between having a family history of breast cancer and developing breast cancer yourself. According to Cancer Research UK, having a mother, sister, or daughter diagnosed with breast cancer approximately doubles your risk. Most people with a family history of breast cancer won’t develop it themselves.
Your race an affect your chances of getting breast cancer.
Although breast cancer can affect people of all races and ethnicities, studies have shown that white, non-Hispanic women have the highest overall risk of breast cancer in the United States, though African-American women have the highest death rate from breast cancer among women 40 to 50 years old.
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