Which factors can increase your risk of developing breast cancer? The truth is: you should trust your doctor and not believe everything you hear.
What are common breast cancer risk factors? You may have heard that there are several factors (some you can control, and some you cannot) that can increase your breast cancer risks. Do you worry that using deodorant, consuming caffeine, or getting breast implants will make a breast cancer diagnosis more likely? Do you worry about a family history of breast cancer? We explain what you should and should not be concerned about when it comes to breast cancer, and how to talk to your doctor about prevention.
What Can Increase Your Chances of Developing Breast Cancer?
Mixed results in scientific studies and general misinformation from your peers can easily complicate the truth about breast cancer. So, which breast cancer risk factors do you really need to pay attention to? Research-supported risk factors for breast cancer include:
Simply being a woman increases your breast cancer risk. In 2011, 220,097 women and 2,078 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnoses for American women.
Family Cancer History
A history of breast cancer on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family increases your risk. The chance of developing breast cancer is doubled if your mother, daughter, or sister has been diagnosed. Recent genetic testing has also shown that the inheritance of abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may account for up to 10% of all breast cancer cases.
Caucasian women are at a slightly higher risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer. However, African-American women usually get breast cancer diagnoses at younger ages and have far more advanced cases. More Hispanic women die of this particular cancer than any other form of cancer.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking or excessive drinking can significantly increase your risk of developing many dangerous health conditions, including cancer. Lack of exercise and obesity may also contribute to an increased risk, especially after menopause.
What Hasn’t Been Proven to Cause Breast Cancer?
Many overly-publicized possible cancer risks are unfounded by medical research and only produce unnecessary worries. The truth is that the following items or practices have not been proven to cause an increased cancer risk:
- underwire bras
- breast implants
- drinking caffeine
- cell phone use
- deodorant or anti-perspirant use
- hair dyes and relaxers
- electromagnetic fields
- menopausal estrogen hormone therapy (if used for less than 10 years)
You can learn more about what may increase or decrease your own risk using Susan G. Komen’s helpful risk factor table.
Take Preventative Measures and Find Support
In addition to taking control of your health and the risk factors you can change, it is highly recommended that you follow several practices for early detection of possible breast cancer. Regular self-breast exams and mammograms can decrease your risk of death from breast cancer. By the age of 40, or earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer, women should begin getting annual mammograms. But during your annual doctor’s visit, young women can also learn about self-breast exams so that you can perform them at home every month between visits.
If you are worried about your risk of developing breast cancer, know that you are never alone. The Woman’s Clinic specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of women’s health conditions. We are here to offer you support if you have any questions or concerns, so visit The Woman’s Clinic to discuss your personal concerns about breast cancer or schedule an appointment with your doctor today.