October is usually a month of pumpkin orange, and autumn leaves turning fiery shades of red and yellow, but it is also that time of year where we are reminded to think pink. It’s also National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Most women know that they should perform monthly breast self-exams, feeling for any abnormalities. Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. Women ages 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. While women 55 and older can switch to mammograms every 2 years or continue annual screening. But did you know that there are other risk factors for breast cancer that are often ignored?
Five Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes – an enlarged lymph node under the arm, indicating a change in the lymphatic system, is sometimes a sign of breast cancer.
- Back Pain – It may sound vague, but breast cancer is often diagnosed via back pain, which can occur when a breast tumor presses backward into the chest, or when the cancer spreads to the spine or ribs.
- Alcohol – The use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who consume 1 alcoholic beverage a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have roughly one and a half times the risk of women who drink no alcohol.
- Family History – Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have or have had the disease. Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk about 3-fold.
- High Bone Density – Some recent studies suggest that post-menopausal women with high bone mineral density are at an increased risk of breast cancer. This may be in part because women with higher estrogen levels tend to have stronger bones.