October marks the 30th year for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) organization and its campaign for awareness, education and empowerment.
Breast cancer is a topic that should be revisited each year, not only as a gentle reminder to women to take care of themselves and get screenings if appropriate, but also to honor those who have suffered with this horrible disease
Breast cancer accounts for one in every three cancer diagnoses in women in the United States. The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimates that this year in the U.S. alone, approximately 290,000 cases of both invasive and non-invasive (in-situ) breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. They also estimate that approximately another 2,150 diagnoses of breast cancer will be in men. Approximately 39,500 women and 400 men will die from it. Only lung cancer accounts for more deaths from cancer in women than breast cancer.
Unfortunately, there are risk factors involved with breast cancer that you cannot change. These include gender, age, genetics and family history, race, and age of menarche and menopause. If you are a woman, over 55 years of age, white, have a history of blood relatives with breast cancer, started your periods before age 12 or entered menopause after age 55, you are at a much higher risk for developing breast cancer.
You can, however, lower your chances of getting breast cancer by changing risk factors that are within your control, such as alcohol intake, diet and exercise.
Limit your alcohol intake. One drink a day has been shown to have little effect on risk. However, 2-5 drinks daily increases risk by 1-1/2 times or more.
Be active. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce risk. The American Cancer Society suggests you exercise for 45 to 60 minutes 5 or more days a week.
Maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain in adulthood, but particularly after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer. If you eat a low fat, high fiber diet and exercise, this will help you to maintain a healthy weight. Numerous studies have been done to examine particular components of diet intake, such as fat, red meat, fiber, soy and dairy to name a few. Unfortunately, at this point in time, no definitive link has been found for any. The American Cancer Society suggests eating a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight with an emphasis on plant sources for prevention of all cancers.
Screening for breast cancer is a powerful tool in diagnosing the disease early. If you are at high risk or over the age of 40, please be sure to make an appointment for a mammogram or other breast cancer screening. Continue your own breast self-exams as well.
For more information on breast cancer from statistics to prevention tips to treatment, the following websites are a plethora of information. www.cancer.org for The American Cancer Society. www.komen.org for The Susan G. Komen Foundation. www.menagainstbreastcancer.org
This article first appeared in 2012.