Sat, Feb 17, 2018 09:30 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-10-22 communities
Early detection accounts for lower mortality rates
by Patricia L. Cataldi, M.D.

General Surgery, Three Rivers Medical Center

The incidence of breast cancer; one of the most common types of cancer in women, continues to increase each year In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Despite the annual increase in breast cancer incidence, the mortality rate has remained stable since 1950 and made a significant decline during the mid-1990s. Researchers believe that increased awareness of the disease, earlier detection and better treatment account for the lower mortality rates. The importance of breast cancer awareness continues to be a hot health topic. Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in October, knowledge of this disease is important all year round.

Like all cancers, breast cancer occurs when a group of cells divide and grow at a rapid pace to form a tissue mass called a tumor. Often, these tumors are benign, or non-cancerous, making them fairly harmless. However, problems can occur when cancerous cells multiply to create a tumor. Malignant or cancerous tumors can interfere with the way the body functions or even spread to other portions of the body.

Although the cause of breast cancer remains unknown, there are several risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing the disease. For example, females have a much greater chance of breast cancer due to the higher number of breast cells.

Aging factors into the level of risk as 77 percent of breast cancer occurs in women over age 50. Family history of breast cancer also generates a higher incidence of the disease and the risk doubles for women with first-degree relatives who have breast cancer.

Race is another uncontrollable risk factor for breast cancer. Although the disease occurs more in white women, African American women have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer. This differentiation occurs because breast cancer is often detected at a later stage in African American women. Asian, Hispanic and Native American women actually have a lower risk of developing the disease.

Luckily, there are some breast cancer risk factors that can be controlled Some studies show that alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Women who consume two to five alcoholic beverages daily have a one and a half times the risk of breast cancer than women who do not drink. Obesity is also affiliated with a heightened risk of breast cancer, though further research is needed. Maintaining a healthy weight will not only reduce breast cancer risk but other potential health problems as well. Some studies show that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptive use may increase the risk of breast cancer. Researchers continue to explore these links to breast cancer risk, however, women should talk to their healthcare provider when deciding to use HRT or oral contraceptives.

Women should be aware of the risk factors for breast cancer. Take time to learn more about the risk factors and signs of breast cancer because this information could be a lifesaver. American Cancer Society; www. cancer, gov National Cancer Institute; and

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