Hooters. Tatas. Boobs. These are a just a few of the nicknames we’ve got for the most noticeable part of the female anatomy: breasts. Regardless of what we dub them, it’s crucial that we know how to treat them with TLC. Organizations across the globe promote public awareness of the disease each October during National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women. The disease will affect one out of eight women by the time they reach 85 years of age.
Think of your eight closest female friends and family members. Just losing one is unthinkable, right? According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than men. However, it’s estimated that at least 35 men in the United States will get the disease each year. Most cases of male breast cancer are detected between the ages of 60 and 70, although the condition can develop at any age. A man’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is only about one-tenth of 1 percent, or one in 1,000 of the population.
Certain factors can help you determine your chances of getting breast cancer. Here are a few of the most prominent risks according to the American Cancer Society:
• Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with breast cancer. For women, there is a five percent chance of being diagnosed if you are younger than 40. The risk increases after that and is highest in women older than 70. For men, the rates and statistics are about the same.
• Genetics: Roughly five to ten percent of breast cancer is believed to be hereditary. There are two types of breast cancer genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. Both can be genetically passed down from parents, but the type of mutation received varies by ethnic group. Less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease. However, it’s still important to know your family history so you can be aware of your own risk.
• Ethnicity: In the United States, breast cancer is more prevalent in Caucasians. African-Americans are next in line, followed by American Indian or Alaskan Natives, Latinos and lastly Asian or Pacific Islanders.
• Alcohol: Studies show a significant link between consuming alcohol and an increase in the chances of getting breast cancer. Having two to five drinks daily increases the risk by up to one and a half times.
• Contraception: The type of birth control method you use impacts your risk, as well. Taking birth control pills increases your risk by 10 to 30 percent. After you stop taking the pill, the risk eventually declines back to zero. Women taking the shot (Depo-Provera) have shown a slight increase in risk that dissipates after five years.
• Body weight: The link between body weight and breast cancer is complex. In general, being overweight causes a multitude of health issues. The risk for overweight, post-menopausal women is higher than those with a normal BMI. Opinions may vary but there is a common consensus that low to moderate exercise can reduce risk by 18 percent.
We may only take one month out of the year to recognize the fight against breast cancer, but it’s not the only time this struggle is a reality. As college students, we put our bodies through a lot considering packed schedules, studying, jobs and social events. Women (and men) should perform monthly breast exams on themselves or even their partners. Those who do self-exams are more aware of how their bodies feel and will be able to notice even the slightest change sooner.