October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer in women. An estimated 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options. To learn more about breast cancer and how you can help, see our answers to some commonly asked questions below.
How many people are affected by breast cancer?
- An estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. within the next year, along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- About 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in the next year. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
- About 41,760 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989.
- For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
What risk factors influence a person’s risk of breast cancer?
Some examples of factors that influence your risk of breast cancer include:
- Being a woman.
- Getting older. Most breast cancer cases are diagnosed after age 50.
- Genetic mutations. Inherited changes to specific genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, put you at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
- Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram.
- Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
- Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who has had breast cancer.
Are there any risk factors that I can work to prevent?
Some risk factors are avoidable based on your lifestyle. Some examples include:
- Not being physically active. Physically active women are less likely to get breast cancer than inactive women.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause.Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a lower weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise the risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to increase breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol.Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
How can National Breast Cancer Awareness Month make a difference?
We can use this opportunity to spread the word about taking steps to detect breast cancer early. Here are a few ideas:
- Although breast cancer screenings cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help detect breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Ask doctors and nurses to speak to women about the importance of getting screened for breast cancer.
- Encourage women ages 40 to 49 to talk with their doctors about when to start getting mammograms.
- Organize an event to talk with women ages 50 to 74 in your community about getting mammograms every two years.
What else can I do to help spread awareness?
There are various toolkits across multiple websites covering National Breast Cancer Awareness Month that you can use to spread awareness. For example, they’ll often provide a set of social media posts you can use to spread awareness on Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms. Check out this HealthFinder toolkit for one example.