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Breast Health & Disease Archive

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Six things you should know about breast cancer risk

Updated October 26, 2016

There's no one big way to reduce your risk for breast cancer, but a combination of approaches could make a difference.

In recent years the statistical picture of breast cancer has brightened, thanks to early detection and advances in treatment. More tumors are being caught at an early stage; the rise in incidence of the disease has slowed; and the death rate has dropped. Nevertheless, breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second most likely (after lung cancer) to take their lives.

Data aside, breast cancer looms large in our health concerns because most of us know it personally. Some of us have had the disease ourselves, and others have experienced it through friends or relatives. Particularly unsettling is its seeming randomness: Nothing seems to explain why one woman develops breast cancer and another doesn't. Granted, family history and certain gene mutations can substantially increase risk. But such factors aren't involved in most breast cancers. Moreover, we can't do much about them, or about many of the other risks associated with the disease, including older age (the 10-year risk of developing breast cancer jumps from 1 in 48 at age 40 to 1 in 26 at age 60), early menarche (first menstrual period), having no children (or bearing the first at a later age), and late menopause.

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