Breast cancer awareness -- know the facts

by Melissa Jaramillo

Breast-SizeBreast cancer touches us all in one way or another. A friend, family member or colleague -- we each seem to know someone who has faced this battle.

Perhaps it touched you even more personally, through a scare or an actual diagnosis. For me, it was an aunt (full mastectomy/reconstruction), mom (scare), several dear friends, and some phenomenal women here onsite.

I've witnessed the courage and determination as they sought to combat this disease head on by arming themselves with the best research, options, medical caregivers, and support teams possible.

The survivors say a key ingredient is learning the facts. Learn your risk factors and reduce those threats within your control. Tune "in" to pink and spread breast cancer awareness! You may save the life of your mother, your daughter, your close friend...yourself.

Breast cancer facts

In the United States, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Each year, a small number of men also are diagnosed with or die from breast cancer.

Although the breast cancer diagnosis rate has increased, there has been a steady drop in the overall breast cancer death rate since the early 1990s.

While the incidence rate is lower for African Americans than Whites, the mortality rate is higher.

✓ Every 2 minutes, there is a new breast cancer diagnosis
✓ Every 14 minutes, a life is lost to the disease
✓ Over 40,000 people will die this year; about 400 of them will be men
✓ 85% of all diagnoses have no family history
✓ 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer
✓ Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between ages 40 and 55

Reduce your risk

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if you gain the weight after menopause.

Become more physically active. Not doing regular exercise puts you at a greater risk of breast cancer. Studies indicate that exercise also reduces the odds that it will recur if you're a breast cancer survivor.

Avoid exposure to environmental pollution. While further studies are needed, research suggests a link between breast cancer and exposure certain pollutant like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in vehicle exhaust, BPA and phthalates.

Plan to conceive your first child before age 30. Your risk increases if you have no children or wait until after 30 to have your first baby.

Breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding plays a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you nurse your baby, the greater the protection.

Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits a day. While research doesn't show that a healthy diet directly protects against breast cancer, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Limit alcohol. Stop at one drink. If you have 2 to 5 drinks a day you face a much greater risk of breast than women who don't drink.

Rethink hormone replacement therapy. Long term use of combined HRT after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer and heart disease. It also seems to reduce a mammogram's effectiveness

Breast cancer -- in the news, 2012

Chemotherapy during pregnancy: According to a study published in "The Lancet Oncology," babies born to women with breast cancer who received chemotherapy while pregnant don't seem to be at greater risk of complications.

Preview reconstructive surgery: A new survey released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that 89 percent of women want to see what breast reconstruction surgery results would look like before undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Sleep and breast cancer: Lack of sleep is linked to more aggressive breast cancers, according to new findings published in the August issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

Even walking the dog helps: A study, published in the "International Journal of Cancer," looked at over 250,000 women across Europe. It found that active women lowered their risk of breast cancer. Housework, gardening...even walking the dog helped. 2 1/2 hours of exercise a day reduced their chance by 6 percent while three hours dropped it 10 percent. Very active women -- those moving six hours each day saw a 13 percent decrease in risk.

Do you know a breast cancer hero? Tell us about them.