As the second leading cause of cancer death in American women today(2), breast cancer usually takes one of two forms—beginning either in ducts (ductal) or the lobes (lobular) before spreading to nearby tissue. Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for nearly 85% of breast cancers.
Malignant tumors can spread throughout the body through the lymph nodes. Which is why early detection is absolutely critical.
Fortunately, the majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. Such benign breast tumors, while still abnormal tissue growth, do not spread beyond the breast and are not life-threatening.
While the cause of breast cancer is still unknown, a number of factors can increase your risk of getting it. Some are unavoidable, while others can be minimized through lifestyle changes and regular checkups.
Women are nearly 100 times more susceptible to the disease than men. As a woman ages her risk factor increases, with nearly 80% of breast cancers occurring in women over 50. Risks are generally lowest for women under 40, and highest for women over 70.
Also, certain genes in a woman’s body can change as she ages, leading to increased risk of developing breast cancer.
If you’ve had breast cancer before, you are at a higher risk of getting it again.
Breast cancer risk is also higher among women with a family history of breast cancer, specifically a mother, daughter or sister with a history of the disease.
Caucasian women have a slightly higher risk than African-American women, though African Americans are more likely to die from the disease. Risks are lower for Asian, Hispanic and Native American women.
Women who began menstruating before age 12, or who experience menopause after 55 are at slightly higher risk for breast cancer.
Recent studies have shown using birth control pills can cause slight increases in breast cancer risk.
Women who have never been pregnant, or who have their first child after 30, have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Being pregnant more than once and at an early age reduces breast cancer risk, as does breastfeeding.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Using a combination of estrogen and progesterone HRT for more than several years may increase your breast cancer risk. That risk returns to normal five years after stopping therapy. Studies indicate that the use of HRT does appear to reduce mammogram effectiveness, making it more difficult to detect breast cancer at its earliest stages.
Increased alcohol consumption increases your risk. More than two drinks per day raises the risk to one and a half times more than those who do not drink at all. Those who have one drink a day are only slightly more at risk for breast cancer.
Diet and Exercise
Being overweight increases your risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause, and if the weight gain—particularly around the waist—happens during adulthood.
Exercise, however, can lower your breast cancer risk. According to a recent study, as little as one to two-and-a-half hours a week of brisk walking reduced the risk by 18%. Exercising longer reduced it even more.
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