Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the second most common cancer overall with over 2 million new diagnoses in 2018. Breast cancer incidence rates vary globally, and Belgium had the highest rate of breast cancer in women, with the US #22 on the list (as of 2018) 1. Although rare, men can get breast cancer, too. Survival rates vary worldwide, and in general they have vastly approved as a result of screening efforts and early diagnosis. Here are a few risk factors you should be aware of and why screening is important 2:
- Age: As you get older, your risk of cancer increases, with 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers found in women 55 or older. Fewer than 5% of breast cancers occur in women under 40.
- Family History: Your risk doubles if you’ve had one first-degree female relative (mother, sister, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Genetics: 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary.
- Weight: Women who are overweight are at greater risk, especially after menopause. Diet is also thought to be partly responsible for 30%-40% of all cancers.
- Alcohol/Smoking: Not a surprise to most, but drinking alcohol and smoking can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
- Dense Breasts: Women with dense breasts can be 6x more likely to develop cancer and it can be more difficult to detect on mammograms.
- Exercise: Research shows a link between exercising regularly for 4-7 hours/week and lower breast cancer risk.
- Chemicals: There's growing concern that pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones used on crops/livestock, mercury in seafood, industrial chemicals in food/packaging, parabens and phthalates in cosmetics, and BPA in plastics may increase breast cancer risk.