Breast Cancer: Reducing your Risk.
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in Ireland. Early diagnosis and better treatment mean the majority of women survive their diagnosis. Breast cancer survival has improved by about 40% over the last 40 years. Eight in ten women diagnosed and treated for breast cancer today are predicted to survive their cancer for at least ten years.
To reduce your lifetime risk of developing or dying from Breast cancer you can -
1. Be aware of the risk factors and where possible reduce them
2. Increase your chances of early detection by being familiar with and examining your own breasts and attending your screening mammogram every 2 years if you are between the age of 50 and 66 years old (free from www.breastcheck.ie).
Some of the Breast cancer risk factors are beyond our control:
- Increasing age (most breast cancers occur in women over 50)
- Family history: Women with a first degree relative (mum, sister, daughter) with breast cancer have an increased risk. Your risk is higher if you have more than one first degree relative with breast cancer, a known gene mutation in the family, or family members diagnosed at a younger age (<50 yrs old). If you are in this category, talk to your GP about whether you require extra screening.
- Early age at starting menstrual periods (<12) or a late age at menopause (>51)
- Not having children or starting a family at a later age
However some of the risk factors we can reduce:
- Being overweight: Having a Body Mass Index >30 doubles your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Smoking: Smoking increases your risk of Breast cancer
- Alcohol: drinking more than 7 glasses of wine or more that 6 pints of beer a week increases your risk.
- Lack of physical activity: Taking just 2.5 hours of exercise per week reduces your risk of breast cancer.
- Talk to your GP to establish your risk of breast cancer and what you can do to reduce the risk or detect early cancers.
By Dr Karen Soffe