Understanding Breast Cancer

In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 226,000 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and more than 2,100 cases diagnosed in men. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women aside from skin cancer. Additionally there will be more than 63,000 new cases of in situ breast cancer with approximately 85 percent being ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Being female and aging are the two most important risk factors for breast cancer. There is a common misconception among older women that their risk decreases with age when it fact the opposite is true.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will develop breast cancer, in fact most women who have one or more risk factors never develop the disease. Many women with no risk factors develop breast cancer, at this time we don’t know how much these risk factors contribute to the development of breast cancer.

There are different kinds of risk factors, some of these are under our control and can be changed. Other risk factors, like age or race, cannot be changed. Other risk factors are linked to the environment. Your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle changes.

Risk Factors (Uncontrolled)

Being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. The primary reason women develop breast cancer is because the breast cells are constantly exposed to the effects of female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Breast cancer is also found in men but in much lower numbers than in women.

As you age your risk of developing breast cancer increases. About one out of eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about two of three invasive breast cancers are found in women ages 55 or older.