Just because you’re female, you have a 33 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in your life. Those odds pretty much stink, especially when lifestyle choices, your environment, and in some cases your genetic heritage, raise the risk even higher.
The truth is, there are some risk factors we can’t change.
Take age, for example. As women age, their breast cancer risk goes up due to menopause itself, and due to hormone therapy used to ease menopausal symptoms.
There are other factors you can't change. Like your age when you started your period (before age 12) or how old you were when you had your last period (older than age 55). Both raise your breast cancer risk slightly.
So does having a baby after age 30, which elevates your risk slightly. Breastfeed your baby for 18 months to two years however, and your risk diminishes slightly.
As women, it’s up to us to keep our breast cancer risk as low as possible throughout our lifetimes.
We can’t do much about biology, but we can avoid other potential mine fields, such as drinking alcohol, being obese or overweight, and not getting enough exercise.
If you are of childbearing age, you may want to ask your doctor or health professional about the risk associated with contraceptive use.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women ages 20-49 who recently used some types of birth control pills in the last year increased their risk for invasive breast cancer compared to never or former users.
Researchers found that pills containing high-dose estrogen increased breast cancer risk 2.7-fold, and those containing moderate-dose estrogen increased the risk 1.6-fold.
Oral progestin pills containing ethynodiol diacetate increased the risk 2.6-fold, and triphasic combination pills containing an average of 0.75 milligrams of norethindrone increased the risk 3.1-fold.
But researcher Elisabeth F. Beaber at the Public Health Sciences Division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said prior studies have shown that the elevated risk seems to go back to normal over time once the pills are stopped.