Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Last Editorial Review: 7/23/2002

About 1 in every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer. The exact cause of breast cancer is not known and most likely involves many factors, including genetic, environmental, nutritional and hormonal.

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Breast cancer elicits so many fears, including those relating to surgery, death, loss of body image and loss of sexuality. Managing these fears can be facilitated by information and knowledge.

The following is a listing of risk factors.

Age & Gender

The most prominent risk factors for breast cancer are age and gender. Men can develop breast cancer, but women are 200 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Breast cancer is four hundred times more common in women who are 50 years old as compared to those who are 20 years old. Seventy-five percent of women who develop breast cancer have no risk factors other than age.

Family History

A family history of breast cancer will increase the risk of developing breast cancer in a woman by three to five times.

Menstruation & Menopause

Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12, those who delayed menopause until after age 55, and those who had their first pregnancy after age 30 have a mildly increased risk of developing breast cancer (less than two times the normal risk).

Dietary Factors

Dietary factors such as high-fat diets and alcohol consumption have been implicated as increased risk factors for breast cancer in some studies. More recent studies have disproven high-fat diets as increasing the risk for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer At A Glance
  • One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer.
  • The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known although a number of risk factors have been identified.
  • Breast cancer is diagnosed with self- and physician- examination of the breasts, mammography, ultrasound testing, and biopsy.
  • There are many types of breast cancer that differ in their capability of spreading (metastasize) to other body tissues.
  • Treatment of breast cancer depends on the type and location of the breast cancer, as well as the age and health of the patient.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends that a woman should have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 years. Between 40 and 50 years of age mammograms are recommended every other year. After age 50 years, yearly mammograms are recommended.

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