October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a month dedicated to educating people about breast cancer, the second most common type of cancer among women.
According to the Susan G. Komen organization, women over the age of 70 are at highest risk for developing breast cancer. As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of older adults, Five Star Senior Living is sharing facts and statistics senior women should know about breast cancer.
Facts About Senior Women and Breast Cancer
- Women in this country have a 12% risk of developing breast cancer. That translates to one in every eight women.
- Since 2007, breast cancer death rates in older women have been declining. Experts believe this is due to increased awareness, as well as better screenings and treatment.
- The median age at diagnosis is 62, meaning half of the women who are diagnosed are over the age of 62 and half are younger.
- While fewer than 5% of women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer, it is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women between the ages of 20 and 39.
- Breast cancer rates rose during the mid- to late-1990s. Experts believe this may be due to increased use of menopausal hormone therapy, now linked to breast cancer. This theory is further supported by the fact that when hormone therapy use decreased, rates of breast cancer fell in the early 2000s.
- Overall incidences of breast cancer are slightly higher among white women than black women.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
While some risk factors are unavoidable, others are not. Taking steps to lower your risk is important at any age. Here’s what research shows about breast cancer and risk factors:
- Age is a factor. The older you are, the higher your risk. This applies to both men and women.
- Breast cancer risk begins to increase at age 40 and is highest in women over the age of 70.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation significantly increases risk. 72% of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and about 69% of women who inherit the BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 80.
- Childbirth seems to impact a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Women who have their first child at age 35 or younger are at lower risk, as are women who have more than one child.
- Women who have two or three alcoholic drinks a day have a 20% higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Women who are taking birth control pills (or those who have recently quit) have a 20 to 30% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who’ve never taken the pill.
- Being overweight or obese before menopause slightly decreases a woman’s risk, while being overweight or obese after menopause increases it.
- A sedentary lifestyle also increases risk. Women who get regular exercise may be able to lower their breast cancer risk by as much as 20%.
Finally, we hope you will join us in encouraging women of all ages to follow their doctor’s advice on breast cancer screening types and frequency.