Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among females in Indiana, excluding skin cancers, with approximately 4,400 cases in the state each year. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and State health officials are encouraging Hoosier women to get screened.
“Regular screenings are important to detecting breast cancer,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Beginning at age 50, women should have a mammogram every year or two. Talk to your doctor to determine your risks and the benefit of screenings.”
There are several risk factors that contribute to breast cancer. Women have a much greater risk of developing breast cancer than do males, and that risk increases with age. Additional risk factors include:
People who have had two or more first degree relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have an increased risk. Additionally, breast cancer risk increases if someone has a family member who carries the BRCA 1 or 2 genes, which account for 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases.
In Indiana, during 2007-2011, the breast cancer incidence rates for African American and white women were similar, but the mortality rate for African American women was 39 percent higher than for whites. This increased risk can partially be attributed to African American women being diagnosed with more aggressive forms of breast cancer or at later stages.
Women who started menstruation before age 12 or menopause after age 55 might be at increased risk as a result of a higher lifetime exposure to estrogen.
• Pregnancy and Breastfeeding History
There are studies that show that women who have not had children, had their first child after age 30 or have not breastfed might have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, some research indicates that for each year a mother breastfeeds her child, her relative risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by 4.3 percent.