This October, we’re helping you understand:
- What your risk factors are
- What you can do to try to minimize your risk
- When to do self-exams
Understand Your Risk Factors
Your risk of developing breast cancer can be impacted by genetics, environment, lifestyle, or a combination of all three. Let’s talk about each one.
Genetic Risk Factors
While you can’t change your genetics, understanding them is still important. For example, if your mother or sister has had breast cancer, your risk of developing it will be twice as high as someone who doesn’t have any direct relatives with breast cancer.2 Because of this, your doctor may recommend starting mammograms earlier.
Here are some other known genetic risk factors to consider:
- Gender: Women are 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer.3
- Age: As you age, your risk may increase.3
- Race: White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer but Black women have a 40% higher mortality rate.4
- Previous diagnosis: Your risk increases if you’ve had breast cancer or abnormal cells detected in the past.3
- Menstrual history: Women who started menstruating before age 12 or who went through menopause after age 55 have increased risk because of the extra years their breasts were exposed to estrogen.3
- Reproductive history: Not having children, having fewer children, or having children at a later age can increase your risk. While your risk of breast cancer does increase slightly after pregnancy, your overall risk actually decreases later in life.4
- Genome changes: The BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genetic mutations increase your risk of breast cancer and can be passed down from relatives.3
- Breast tissue density: More dense breast tissue not only increases your risk of developing breast cancer, but it can also make it harder to detect.3
These facts may feel alarming, but they can also help empower you to examine your situation and find the care you need.
Environmental & Lifestyle Risk Factors
These risk factors can often contribute to many health issues in addition to breast cancer. They’re also the ones you might have more control over.
Environmental and lifestyle factors that increase your risk of breast cancer include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Heavy alcohol use
- Radiation or hormone replacement therapy
Make Healthy Choices To Reduce Risk
Feeling a little uneasy about your risk? If you have one or several of the above risk factors, you’re not alone.
Here are some things you can do now to help reduce your risk:
- Live your best life: We know the advice “eat healthy and exercise” gets old. But diet and exercise do play a huge role in your overall health. Add some fresh, unprocessed foods to your meals and take your hot girl walks.
- Talk to your doctor: List out your risk factors and discuss them with your doctor at your next visit. They may have recommendations or they may be able to put your mind at ease.
- Do your breast self-exams, seriously: Your doctor has probably already told you this, but we have to drive it home because early detection is so key. No one knows your body better than you. It’s important to get familiar with your breasts now so you can recognize right away if something changes.
When To Do Self-Exams
Did you know there’s actually an ideal time of month to do your self-exams? Your breast tissue changes throughout your cycle, which is why you should do your self-exam at the same time each month. The week after your period is ideal because your breasts are less tender.
New to breast self-exams? Ask your doctor at your next visit to walk you through one so you get an idea of what’s normal, what’s dense breast tissue, and what to look out for.