There are as many as 200,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year. It is the most common type of cancer among Canadian women, and it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. While there’s no easy answer when it comes to avoiding breast cancer all together, there are certain precautions you can take to mitigate your risk – and that first means knowing what those risk factors are.
Among the two highest risk factors for breast cancer are age and gender. While breast cancer can occur in individuals of all ages, as well as affect men, incidences of breast cancer below the age of 40 are considerably lower; while other risk factors related to breast cancer may include things like weight, alcohol consumption, as well as there being a potential link to certain chemicals.When it comes to weight, research suggests that obesity increases the risk of breast cancer. Along with the potential risk of breast cancer, obesity also comes with the risk of developing other health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, as well as cardiovascular disease – which then increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. The best thing you can do to prevent breast cancer and the aforementioned heart-related problems is to make sure you’re eating healthy and staying physically fit, and all you need is 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day to reap the benefits. Something people may not be aware of is the fact that alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer. Wine (red wine, in particular) is a carcinogen that is sensitive for breast cancer, and even drinking a small amount can increase that risk. If you are going to consume alcohol, the Canadian Cancer Society says you should not drink more than one glass of wine per day. As for household chemicals, while there has not been any kind of scientific evidence to suggest that there is a direct link between them and breast cancer, some experts say that we should err on the side of caution and decrease our exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly used for household cleaning, as well as certain personal care products.
As another preventive measure, it’s also recommended that you do breast self-exams every 2 to 3 months. To make sure you’ve done a proper and complete self-exam, click here for HealthLink BC’s how-to guide. Because breast cancer can also affect men, they should not be excluded from doing this type of exam. Women should avoid doing a self-exam during their period, as breast tissue will tend to feel lumpier and fuller during that time. It’s also not uncommon for women to experience breast tenderness during their menstrual cycle. If you notice any changes with your breasts, such as lumps or bumps, or have nipple discharge, crusting, or thickening, you should let your family physician know immediately. He or she will refer you for a breast cancer screening test known as a mammogram. In some cases, an ultrasound or MRI may also be ordered. If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, it’s recommended that you get a mammogram every 2 years. You can find more information on breast cancer screening here.