In the United States, breast cancer affects the lives of many women every year. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women, second only to skin cancer. Cancer occurs because of cellular mutation; rapid, uncontrolled cell growth. In the case of breast cancer, cancerous cells form in the tissue of the breast. Women over the age of 50 are most commonly affected, although younger women are still at risk. The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends that women between the ages of 50-74 should have a mammogram every two years. Women ages 40-49 should speak to their doctor regarding routine screenings.
There are factors that can INCREASE a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Know your risk!
- Family or personal history of breast cancer. Women who have a mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease. Mutations to genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 can be inherited, increasing the risk.
- Dense breast tissue. Since dense breast tissue contains less fat and increased proportions of glandular and supportive tissue, it can often interfere with interpretation of mammogram results.
- Obesity. Fat cells produce estrogen, which has been linked to the growth and development of certain types of breast cancer. This means, the more fat cells a woman has, the more estrogen her body is producing, putting her body at risk.
- Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT). Women who have had or are currently using HRT have an increased risk of breast cancer. Exposure to increased levels of estrogen can be responsible for the development of cancer.
There are also factors that can PROTECT women from developing breast cancer.
- Older age at menarche. Research has shown that girls who get their first periods later have a reduced lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Leading a healthy lifestyle can decrease the overall risk for many cancers.
- Breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed their babies have a reduced risk of breast cancer. Typically, while breastfeeding women experience shorter or fewer menstrual cycles, which limits estrogen levels in the body. Milk production also inhibits the chance of cell mutation.
It’s important for women to have regular breast exams, especially those who are in the highest risk age range. There are free and low cost screening options for women in the Gallatin Valley.
Greater Gallatin United Way/Bozeman Deaconess Mammogram Project
Montana Cancer Control Programs