Breast cancer prevention and risks

  • Published
  • By Emily Posadas
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron Health Promotion Coordinator
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and highlighting statistics and risk factors are key to delivering the message of prevention. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women of all races and ethnicities, but can also occur in men.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 220,097 women and 2,078 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and 40,931 women and 443 men died of breast cancer in 2011. 

Men can get breast cancer at any age, but it is most common in men who are between the ages of 60 and 70.  For women, the risk of breast cancer increases with age, which is why breast self-awareness is important for women of all ages.

Per guidance from the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mammograms every two years are important screening tools for women between the ages of 50 and 74 years of age.  If you or someone you care for has any concerns about the risks of developing breast cancer, there are a few things that can be done to help reduce their risk of developing the disease. 

First, increase healthy lifestyle habits.  There are some things we cannot control, like the genes we inherit, but we can control how we choose to live our lives.  By increasing what we call protective factors, we can help to lower our risk of developing the disease. 

Some lifestyle modifications that help protect against breast cancer include: maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting alcohol use, and refraining from smoking. 

Additionally, consuming a healthy diet, rich with fruits and vegetables and low in fat, has shown to have a slight reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer.  A healthy diet is paramount to maintaining a healthy weight, which plays a role in breast cancer prevention. 

For women, another factor to take into consideration when thinking breast cancer prevention is to breastfeed any children they may have, if possible.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year of an infant's life -- not only does this improve the child's immune system and brain development, but provides a greater protective effect against breast cancer.  The longer a woman breastfeeds her child, the greater the protective effect is going to be. 

By knowing one's risk and following healthy lifestyle habits, we can all decrease our risks of developing this serious disease. 

If you have any questions about health promotion nutrition, please contact Health Promotions at 452-7385.  If you have any questions on mammograms, please contact the Women's Health Flight at 452-3161.