Breast cancer is the most common type of the disease, with more than 2.2 million cases worldwide every year, according to 2020 data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is estimated that about one in 12 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime – the disease is the leading cause of death among them.
In 2020, around 685,000 women died from this disease worldwide.
Specifically, nearly a quarter of new breast cancer cases in 2020 occurred in the Americas.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the proportion of women affected by the disease before age 50 (32%) is much higher than in North America (19%), says the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
There are several risk factors for breast cancer that cannot be modified, such as aging, genetic mutations, and personal and family history, to name the most frequent.
But there are other factors that increase the risk of contracting the disease and that can be prevented or mitigated by making changes in daily life.
What are the factors that increase the risk of breast cancer? And what can be done to reduce them?
1. Physical inactivity
Women who are not physically active are at greater risk of getting breast cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Therefore, it is important to practice physical activity regularly.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of more intense activity per week (or a combination of both), preferably spread over seven days.
Higher-intensity physical activity causes an elevated heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.
2. Excess weight
Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of breast cancer than those with a healthy weight.
The American Cancer Society recommends maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and avoiding excessive weight gain by balancing food intake with physical activity.
Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can increase your risk of breast cancer if taken for longer than 5 years, notes the CDC.
To avoid this, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about non-hormonal options for treating menopausal symptoms.
4. Reproductive history
Getting pregnant for the first time after age 30, not breastfeeding, and having a miscarriage can all increase your risk of breast cancer.
Women who choose to breastfeed their babies for at least several months may gain an added benefit by lowering their risk of breast cancer, points out the American Cancer Society.
Some studies show that a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases the more alcohol she drinks, says the CDC.
Even consumption at low levels has been associated with increased risk. It is better not to drink alcohol.
But those who do should not have more than one alcoholic drink a day, advises the American Cancer Society.
And how much is that daily dose? About 355 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine, or 50 ml of spirits or “strong drinks”.
Smoking can cause cancer in almost any part of the body.
Avoiding smoking and being exposed to cigarette smoke helps reduce your risk of getting cancer.
Research suggests that other factors, such as exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and changes in other hormones due to night work, may also increase breast cancer risk, the CDC details.
Organizations that specialize in breast cancer recommend consulting your doctor about screening for early detection of the disease.
Talking to a professional about when to start tests, such as clinical exams and mammograms, are critical, the Mayo Clinic states on its website.
In addition, it is necessary to become familiar with the breasts during a breast self-exam.
If there is a new change, lump or other unusual signs in the breasts, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
And as always, you have to take care of food.
Women who follow a Mediterranean diet with extra virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
The Mediterranean diet is focused on plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, details the Mayo Clinic.
This text was originally published here