Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breast Cancer: Are You at Risk? Reduce It!

Written by Kristi Funk, M.D.

1. Are you a woman?
2. Do you keep getting older?

If you said yes to both, then yes, my friend, you are at risk for breast cancer. Understanding which risk factors you cannot control empowers you to take a stronger stance on what you can control. You should know these facts!

“Know Thyself”: The Top 8 Uncontrollable Risk Factors for Breast Cancer:
  • Being female: 1 in 8 (12.5%) women gets breast cancer in her lifetime.

  • Aging: The older you get, the higher your risk. 1 in 234 women will be diagnosed by 35 years old; by 65, the rate increases to 1 in 28.

  • Race: Whites have the highest breast cancer rates, but Blacks and American Indians are more likely to die from it.

  • Menstruation/Menopause: The earlier you started monthly periods, and the later in life you stopped, the higher your risk.

  • Pregnancy: First baby after 30 years old increases risk.

  • Personal History of Breast Cancer: Usually 10% recurrence risk in the cancer breast, and 1% per year for the opposite breast (20% chance in 20 years).

  • Family History of Breast Cancer: Especially premenopausal 1st degree relatives.

  • BRCA: an inherited genetic mutation that increases lifetime risk up to 85%.

You can prevent breast cancer -- to the best of your ability -- when you recognize risk factors you can control, and then adjust your life choices accordingly.

“Control Thyself”: The Top 8 Tips for Stopping Breast Cancer Before it Starts

  • Alcohol: Keeping it to <>
  • Folate: Dear Drinkers, please take the supplement, folic acid 600mcg/day, to fight against the alcohol-induced increase in breast cancer risk.

  • Obesity: Overweight and obese women (body mass index over 25*) have a 50-250% increase over normal weight women. Lose weight and lose risk!

  • Exercise: 3–4 hours/week at moderate to vigorous levels reduces risk. Get up!

  • Diet: High fiber, low fat. Veggies and vitamins, lean meat. Did you really think I’d say filet mignon and potatoes au gratin?

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): For every 10,000 women taking HRT (yes, even bio-identical), 8 preventable breast cancers occur. Understand your personal risks versus benefits before popping that pill.

  • Medications: For those at seriously high risk (lifetime risk > 20%), anti-estrogen pills, Tamoxifen and Evista, have undesirable side effects, but absolutely reduce risk by > 50%. Two aspirin or ibuprofen a week for over 5 years reduces breast cancer 21%.

  • Mammograms: I know they hurt. I know there’s radiation. But mammograms save lives. If every woman over 50 got her mammogram every year, the breast cancer death rate would drop 35%. Start at 35 years old, and always ask for digital mammograms

Limit the uncontrollable by arming yourself with knowledge, and taking steps toward early detection and prevention.

Wishing you the “breast of health” always,
Kristi Funk, M.D.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes breast cancer just happens regardless of how proactive we are in taking preventative actions. If it is does happen, the question one should be asking is not Why me, but why not me? As women, we all share this risk, and none of us is immune.
Jessica Sacher RN MN IBCLC
Breast cancer survivor