Monday, February 6, 2023

Certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of invasive cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women, after lung cancer.

For women, the chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime is 1-in-8.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States and a good time to know how the risk of developing breast cancer might be lowered.

While the exact cause of breast cancer remains unclear, Dr. Stephanie Repole, a breast surgeon with Bon Secours Surgical Specialists, said certain risk factors make it more likely. While some of them can’t be changed, there are risk factors that can be changed.

She said a few of the “controllable” lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk for women include:

  • Not being physically active: Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause: Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
  • Taking hormones: Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise the risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to increase breast cancer risks.
  • Reproductive history: Having a first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
  • Drinking alcohol: Studies show that women who drink more alcohol have a higher risk.

Just like there are some risks that can be controlled, there are some that can’t. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age and breast density plays a role, while genetics and possible genetic mutations can’t be controlled — and neither can the age at which a female starts her menstrual cycle nor if she starts menopause after the age 55.

“Research also suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift work also may increase breast cancer risk,” Repole said.

Dr. Stephanie Repole, a breast surgeon with Bon Secours Surgical Specialists, said certain behavioral choices can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Bon Secours)
Dr. Stephanie Repole, a breast surgeon with Bon Secours Surgical Specialists, said certain behavioral choices can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women (WYDaily photo/Courtesy of Bon Secours)

One of the most common symptoms is an irregularity on a mammogram, which indicates the need for more screening and hopefully any abnormalities being detected at an early stage.

Repole said a few additional common signs that indicate a woman should see a health care provider include:

  • A change in the look or feel of the breast;
  • A change in the look or feel of the nipple;
  • Discharge from the nipple.

“It’s important to note that most lumps are not cancerous, but women should have them checked by a health care provider,” she said.

Bon Secours also offers a free, online risk assessment tool.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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