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October means the beginning of fall, Halloween, and most importantly, breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. In 2017, 250,520 cases of breast cancer were reported in women in the United States. In Mercer County from 2013-2017, there were 1,582 new cases of female breast cancer. While it is more common for women over the age of 50 to be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is still possible for younger women to be diagnosed with this type of cancer.

Breast cancer is a cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. These cells grow at a rapid rate and typically form a tumor that can be seen on an X-ray or felt as a lump. There are some risk factors to be aware of that have been linked to women who have breast cancer. Some of these risk factors cannot be changed, and some of them are related to your lifestyle.

Unchangeable Risk Factors:

About 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary; they are caused by gene mutations passed on by your parents. The most common of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Normally, these genes help make proteins that rebuild DNA. The mutation of these genes can lead toabnormal cell growth that causes cancer.

Another factor that can lead to breast cancer is having a family history of breast cancer. If a first-degree relative of yours has had breast cancer, your chance of getting it almost doubles.

 

Lifestyle Factors:

            Alcohol intake is directly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Women who consume 1 drink a day have a 7% increased risk of breast cancer, while women who indulge in 2 or more drinks a day have about a 20% increased risk.

            Another factor that contributes to an increased risk of breast cancer is being overweight after going through menopause. This is because before menopause, your ovaries make most of your estrogen and fat tissue makes a small amount. After menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from the fat tissue. Having more fat tissue will raise the amount of estrogen your body makes and increase your risk of breast cancer.

 

            Be sure to periodically check for signs of breast cancer and always visit your physician annually to get a professional opinion. If possible, consider donating to the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help women in need.