There are some unavoidable factors that increase a woman’s likelihood of getting breast cancer. Here are a few of those factors:
While men can have breast cancer, women are around 100 times more likely to develop the disease, because they have more of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen, which have been shown to promote cell growth in breast cancer tumors.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight invasive breast cancers are found in women who are younger than 45 years old, and two out of three invasive breast cancers are found in women who are 55 years and older. The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends that women ages 50-74 should get a mammogramevery two years. Ask your doctor what’s right for you.
Some breast cancers are thought to be hereditary. If you have a first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter, with the disease, your risk is doubled. If two first-degree relatives have the disease, your risk is tripled. If you have first-degree relatives with the disease, you may want to consider getting tested for BRCA gene mutations, which increase your risk of breast cancer.
Race and Ethnicity
Women of Caucasian origin are slightly more likely to develop the disease than African American women. Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women’s risk of dying from breast cancer is lower than other ethnicities.
Dense Breast Tissue
If you have more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue, you have dense breasts. This means your risk of breast cancer is 1.2-2 times greater than a women with regular breast tissue. This also means it is more difficult to spot cancerous cells in mammograms.
Unfortunately, none of these risk factors are something you can change or fix. However, it’s important to know about them. Understanding your risk level means you’ll know how often you should be screened for breast cancer, and it may make you extra vigilant to problems with your breast health. It may also impact whether or not you decide to get tested for mutated genes that could impact your cancer risk. Some women who have a high risk for breast cancer also opt for a double mastectomy to minimize their risk of ever developing breast cancer.
If you’re concerned about your risk, talk to your doctor about your options.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?