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One in Eight Women

Posted on 10/5/2011

Every October is a month of reflection and hope for women all over the world. It is breast cancer awareness month and a time to pay attention to an important disease robbing us of our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, nieces and daughters.

I should know, I lost my sister, aunt and cousins to it. I too am a breast cancer survivor...12 years now and proud of it! Sure, I eat well and am active, but I believe genetics played a huge role in my disease.

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer besides skin cancer for women. And less than about 1 in 8 women (12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States this year:
  • About 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • Nearly 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed. CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer.
  • Approximately 39,520 women will die from it.

Look around a room some time and at least one of the women you're meeting with or talking to, have a great likelihood of developing this disease. It may even be you!

So, what's a woman to do to reduce her chances of not getting breast cancer? There's plenty you can do to arm yourself from it...lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle! What you do plays a huge role in developing breast cancer. Even those with a family history can help their chances by taking these steps. But, things like gender, age, genetic risk factors, family history of breast cancer, race and ethnicity, dense breast tissue and certain benign breast conditions are all things that cannot be changed unfortunately.

  • Having children -- Having several pregnancies and becoming pregnant at a younger age than 30 years old reduces breast cancer risk. The reason is that pregnancy reduces a woman's total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which may be the reason for this effect.
  • Recent oral contraceptive use -- Studies have found women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than those who have never used them. This changes over time once the pills are no longer taken and at 10 years, the risk is entirely gone.
  • Hormone therapy -- In recent studies hormone therapy for women increases the risk of breast cancer. So much has been studied recently about these and the once "magic pills" of yesteryear are looking like more harm could come from them than any good.
  • Breast-feeding -- Studies have shown breast-feeding may reduce a woman's chance of developing breast cancer, especially if she does so for 1 to 2 years. But this is unfortunately uncommon in countries such as the United States.
  • Alcohol -- The use of alcohol is linked to the increase of breast cancer and the risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Less is more ladies moderation is key when it comes to alcohol!
  • Being overweight or obese -- Especially for women after menopause, being overweight or obese has been found to increase their breast cancer risk.
  • Physical activity -- More and more evidence is being shown to prove the greater the physical activity levels, the lesser the risk of breast cancer.
  • Healthy diet  -- The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources. This includes 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day, choosing whole grains over processed (refined) and limiting consumption of processed and red meats.

So much to do to help you combat your chances of developing breast cancer...don't just throw your hands up and say, "I'm doomed!" You have a role in your health and your life's destination. Eat a healthy diet, stay active, lose weight, consume less alcohol and give yourself the best shot at staying breast cancer free.

Need more information? Visit cancer.org.

post-author

Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN

She made healthy eating her mission in life long before anyone else did, in hopes of helping her own obese father. A registered nurse by training and entrepreneur at heart, she lives, eats and breathes everything about healthy eating and helping to improve people’s eating habits and overall health. She enjoys never having to bother with grocery shopping, cooking and counting calories. Her favorite SSHE meal, although it’s hard to pick just one, is the Potato Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Sauce.

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