Being a woman is a beautiful thing. However, being a woman also means you’re at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, 1 in 8 American women are estimated to develop breast cancer during their lifetimes. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risks.
There are a variety of factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer. While most of these risk factors can’t be controlled, factors that involve personal lifestyle choices can be changed. Below are some common risk factors and suggestions for lowering your risk in areas where possible:
Knowing you’re at heightened risk is beneficial regardless of whether you possess many risk factors or only one. Fortunately, you can take charge of your health by making sure to have regular breast cancer screenings. If you do develop the disease, the earlier it’s detected, the better the likelihood of a positive outcome.
As mentioned above, inheriting mutated versions of certain genes can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. When it comes to breast cancer risk, the most common inherited gene changes are in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
When healthy, BRCA1 and BRCA2— human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins— help repair damaged DNA. However, when either of these genes is mutated or altered, such that its protein product is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.
The good news is that harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are relatively rare in the general population. Because of this, most experts agree that genetic testing of individuals who do not have cancer should be performed only when the person’s individual or family history suggests the possible presence of a harmful mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2.
If you are located in or around Colorado Springs, Denver, or Boulder, and one or more close family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may benefit from our Genetic Counseling, Prevention, and Risk Assessment Clinic to help you accurately evaluate your own cancer risk.