Here’s How You Can Lower Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

You do have some control over the disease.


Chandré Davids |

According to recent stats, breast cancer continues to affect a significant proportion of South Africans. Example: just in 2013, over 8 000 women were diagnosed with the disease. Plus: one in 28 SA women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It’s also the number-one cancer killer of women, followed by cervical cancer. There’s no way to 100 percent guarantee you won’t get breast cancer, but you can lower your risk – 1Life tells us how…

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Besides the tell-tale lump, there are numerous signs and symptoms that you may have breast cancer. Remember, if you notice anything abnormal about your breasts, it’s best to visit your doctor to rule out any complications.

  • Puckering of the skin of the breast.
  • A lump in the breast or armpit.
  • A change in the skin around the nipple or nipple discharge.
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
  • One breast unusually lower than the other, nipples at different levels.
  • An enlargement of the glands.
  • An unusual swelling in the armpit.

READ MORE: Every Woman Should Know About How Breast Cancer Affects Fertility

Now there are some risk factors you can control. Be aware of them – after all, prevention is better than cure.

Physical inactivity

Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. A 2013 meta-analysis of 31 studies found that average breast cancer risk was reduced by 12 percent when women were frequently physically active. Try to aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week to reap the benefits.

Being overweight or obese

According to numerous studies, having a BMI over 25 can increase your risk of cancer. It’s unclear why, but it could have something to do with the lifestyle overweight people lead. One study found that among postmenopausal women, those who are obese have a 20 to 40 percent increase in the risk of developing breast cancer compared with normal-weight women.

READ MORE: 8 Breast Cancer Myths You NEED To Stop Believing

Hormone replacement therapy

Current or recent past users of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. There are two common kinds of HRT: combination HRT (oestrogen and progesterone), and oestrogen-only HRT. According to Breastcancer.org, combination HRT increases your risk of breast cancer by 75 percent, even if you only used it for a short amount of time.

Having a baby after the age of 30

The older a woman is when she has her first baby, the higher her risk of breast cancer. This is due to being exposed to more oestrogen over her lifetime, and an increase in oestrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. Also, as pregnancy progresses, the breast cells grow, which can cause genetic changes to cells.

The chances of genetic changes increase with age, making you more susceptible to breast cancer as time goes on. Women who carry a mutated version of the BRCA1 gene, which increases the lifetime risk of breast cancer, actually reduce their breast cancer risk 32 to 49 percent if they breastfeed for up to two years.

READ MORE: 5 Signs Of Breast Cancer That Have Nothing To Do With Lumps

Drinking alcohol

Like tobacco, alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Researchers are still trying to figure out why, but it could be linked to the fact that alcohol may cause the breakdown oestrogen, which increases the amount of the hormone in the blood. Having more oestrogen in the body is a risk factor for breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

Then these are the risk factors you can’t change…

Ageing

The risk of breast cancer increases as you get older. Most diagnoses occur after the age of 50.

Family history

If you have a relative – sister, mom, dad – who has had cancer, you are at increased risk.

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Your genes

Inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, places you at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Early periods or late menopause

If your period started before the age of 12 or menopause after the age of 55, your risk increases.

Dense breasts

Dense breast have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, making them more susceptible to breast cancer.

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History of breast cancer or other breast diseases

Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get it again, and those who have had a typical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ (abnormal cell growth in the lobular – milk-producing glands) are also associated with higher risk.

Previous treatment using radiation therapy

Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts before the age of 30 have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life.

READ MORE ON: Breast Cancer Cancer Health Health Conditions