For October, here are 31 facts (one a day) about breast cancer

October 24, 2017 | by Nicole White and City of Hope

Beyond the pink ribbons, special product fundraisers, and the pastel sea of color that marks October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers a reason to celebrate and to reflect.

There are over 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, after skin cancers. Survival rates continue to climb due to better treatments and increased screening that finds cancers when they are most treatable.
 
With women more knowledgeable about warning signs, the importance of self-exams, treatment options and second opinions, they are better prepared than ever before to confront a breast cancer diagnosis – something an estimated one in eight women will do in her lifetime.
 
But breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer. So, in the spirit of heightening awareness — and screening — we offer one fact about breast cancer for every day in October:
 
1. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017 about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
 
2. The leading risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. Though breast cancer does occur in men, the disease is 100 times more common in women.
 
3. Men can also get breast cancer. In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the U.S.
 
4. A woman has about a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
 
5. Most women (about eight out of 10) who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease
 
6. But women who have close blood relatives with breast cancer have a higher risk. Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer almost doubles a woman’s risk.
 
7. While much progress has been made in breast cancer treatment and research, more work remains: Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women after skin cancer. Overall, cancer deaths are the second most-common cause of death for U.S. women, after heart disease.
 
8. Another top risk factor for breast cancer: Simply getting older. As you age, your risk of breast cancer goes up — most breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.
 
9. In the 1970s, breast cancer lifetime risk was one in 11 — compared to today’s one in eight. The good news is part of the reason is due to longer life expectancy and more detection through screening. Other factors include menopausal hormone use, changes in reproductive patterns and the increased prevalence of obesity.
 
10. Thanks to new treatments and early detection, the five-year relative survival rate for women with breast cancer is about 90 percent.
 
11. About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers can be traced to specific, inherited gene mutations, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
 
12. Like other gene mutations, BRCA mutations are rare in the general population; fewer than 1 percent of the general population have a BRCA mutation.
 
13. On average, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and around 45 percent of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.
 
14. Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, as well as developing cancer in both breasts.
 
15. Women of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are at higher risk of having BRCA mutation. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends testing for BRCA mutations for Ashkenazi Jewish women if they have a first-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer or two second-degree relatives on the same side of the family with breast or ovarian cancer.
 
16. While non-Hispanic white women have higher rates of breast cancer incidence, African-American women have a higher incidence rate before age 40 and are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age.
 
17. Women with dense breasts (more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue) on mammograms have a risk of breast cancer that is about 1.5 to 2 times that of women with average breast density.
 
18. Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating early (especially before age 12) or went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer — likely because of a longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
 
19. Research suggests breastfeeding for a year or more slightly reduces overall risk of breast cancer — about a 4.3 percent reduction for every 12 months of breastfeeding. Why? One possible explanation: Breastfeeding often interrupts periods, meaning fewer menstrual cycles and less estrogen exposure. Others suggest that the reduced risk can be credited to structural changes in the breast after lactation and weaning.
 
20. The movement away from one-size-fits all screening doesn’t mean you should skip your mammogram. Talk with your physician to evaluate your personal risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society continues to recommend women should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screenings with mammograms at age 40.
 
21. Herceptin, a breast cancer “smart drug,” can trace its roots to City of Hope: Scientists there developed engineered human proteins that led to monoclonal antibodies, the basis of multiple cancer drugs.
 
22. A 2017 JAMA study found that in the U.S., younger women with breast cancer are increasingly opting to undergo double mastectomies, even if they were diagnosed with early-stage cancer in only one breast.
 
23. In certain states, over 42 percent of women 20 to 44 who underwent surgery between 2010 and 2012 opted to remove both breasts with a CPM, a procedure to remove the healthy breast along with the affected breast.
 
24. Women often detect breast cancers themselves, so don’t underestimate the importance of a monthly breast self-exam. By becoming more familiar with your breast tissue and appearance, you will be more likely to notice changes should they occur. City of Hope recommends these tips for conducting a breast self-exam.
 
25. Exercise reduces breast cancer risk for women of all body types — even lean women, according to Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., director of biomarkers of early detection and prevention at City of Hope.
 
26. While the American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to manage risk, for some, even 30 minutes per week has been found to be beneficial, Bernstein’s research has found.
 
27. Exercise is also beneficial to breast cancer survivors. A recent study in Cancer found only a third of survivors meet recommended activity levels.
 
28. Minimize alcohol intake to control risk. That means one glass of wine, one beer or one hard liquor drink per day. (Drinking seven drinks in one day and none the rest of the week is not OK.)
 
29. Quit smoking to control risk of many diseases, including breast cancer. Younger women who smoke have a higher risk of breast cancer than their nonsmoking peers.
 
30. According to the National Institutes of Health, breast cancer survivors are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen has a protective effect on bones, and reduced estrogen levels can trigger bone loss.
 
31. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, a second opinion could save your life. National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, such as City of Hope, have higher rates of survival for breast cancer.
 

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Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope. Find out more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-4673.

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