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How To Decrease the Risk of Breast Cancer

The mammogram of a breast with lots of fatty tissue (the opposite of dense) appears noticeably darker, so light tumors would show up better against that background.

Breast cancer can affect women under the age of 45, but it is those over 55 that should be most vigilant, a US-based doctor said Thursday.

Only one in eight cases are found in women under 45, even though the risks begin to add up after the age of 40, Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Two out of three cases occur in women over the age of 55, he said.

Other factors include personal history, family history, genetics, radiation exposure and diet, he said.

“Women who received radiation treatment to their chest as a child or young adult for lymphomas have higher risks of developing breast cancer later in life,” he said.

Obesity also matters, he said, “especially for women after menopause.”

“Excess fat in the waist area is associated with the most risk,” he said. “Fatty tissue increases estrogen levels. Estrogen fuels the growth of breast cancer cells.”

That also means that women who begin menstruation before the age of 12 or have late menopause, after the age of 55, have a “slightly” higher risk of breast cancer, he said. “The risk also increases for women who never had children, or whose first pregnancy occurred when they were age 35 or older.”

Caucasian women are at higher risk that other groups, he said, including Asians.

Hormone therapy and birth control pills can also increase the risk, he said.

Smoking “significantly” increases the risk of breast cancer in women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, he said. “Women who consume more than one alcoholic drink a day have about a 20 percent greater risk of breast cancer.”

Breast cancer is most common in women, but it can also affect men, he said.

To help decrease the risk, a person should avoid excessive weight gain, alcohol use and smoking. Regular exercise can help, as well as a decrease in fatty foods and red meats and an increase in fruits and vegetables.

Having children at a younger age and prolonged breast feeding can also help decrease the risk, he said.

Signs and symptoms include breast lumps, discharge from the nipple, retraction or indentation of the nipple, and change in the size or contour of the breast and flattening, indentation, redness or pitting of the skin.