Breast Health: What you need to know

Do you know the guidelines for getting screened for breast cancer? The American Cancer Society recommendations:

Ages 40 to 44: Begin mammograms if you wish; discuss screening with your provider by age 40.

Ages 45 to 54: Get annual mammograms if you have average risk of breast cancer.

Ages 55 and older: Get mammograms once every 2 years or seek annual exams, depending on your risk. Note: Women with a relative (parent, sibling or child) who had breast cancer may consider starting screening from ages 40 to 49.

Be sure to review your medical history and any other breast cancer risk factors with your healthcare provider. If you’re in a high-risk group based on gene mutations, a strong family history or other factors, ask your provider if more screening tests might be useful.

Factors that may RAISE RISK for breast cancer:
• Age — the older a woman, or man, the higher the risk.
• Age at menopause — after age 55, risk is about 30% higher than having menopause before age 45.
• Alcohol use — women consuming 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks per day have a 20% higher risk than nondrinkers.
• Blood estrogen — having higher levels after menopause.
• Family history — having a first-degree relative who had breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.
• Genetic mutations — including BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Other factors that may slightly increase risk include: higher bone density after menopause; birth control pill use; estrogen-plus-progestin use; being overweight; and being Caucasian.

Factors that may LOWER RISK for breast cancer include: being physically active throughout life; maintaining a healthy weight; breastfeeding; consuming vegetables and fruits; and giving birth before age 35. Generally, the more children a woman has given birth to, the lower her risk tends to be.

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