If there are eight women reading this article, one of you will develop breast cancer by the age of 80. Or if 48,222 of us women in Ahwatukee Foothills (ZIP codes 85044, 85048, 85045) are reading, 5,787 have already or will have developed breast cancer before the age of 80; a fairly sobering thought. Equally sobering is: If there are 48,960 men in Ahwatukee, a little less than 1 percent, or 490, will develop breast cancer (demographic statistics came from homes.point2.com).
Approximately 40,000 women died in 2010 from breast cancer. Think of it, almost the entire female population of Ahwatukee dying in a year. As horrible as that statistic is, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased in recent years, probably due to phenomenal public awareness campaigns promoting early detection, improved treatments, and the reduced use of menopausal hormone replacement therapies. Translated into a positive statistic, this means that in the same year, 2010, 2.5 million women have survived breast cancer.
But all is not gloom and doom. Let's talk about the risk factors upon which you can have a positive impact.
Weight: It seems this risk factor applies to every potentially lethal medical condition, even breast cancer, especially in women who are post-menopause. This is because once the ovaries cease producing estrogen (which is the definition of menopause); the body's last resort source for estrogen is stored fat tissue.
Foods: Research is mixed, but it is theorized that eating any animal source of protein (including dairy, cheese, etc.), or simply too much animal protein, is a risk because they may contain hormones, pesticides and other carcinogenic (cancer causing) by-products.
Exercise: Lack of intense physical activity on a regular basis is by itself statistically linked to higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Alcohol: Studies have shown that breast cancer risk increases with the amount of alcohol a woman consumes.
Smoking: Like weight, smoking is a risk factor that applies even to the potential development of breast cancer.
Exposure to estrogen: If you are post-menopausal and using hormone replacement therapies, discuss with your medical provider if it is time to discontinue or at least lessen dosages, or consider alternative therapies.
Unfortunately, you cannot do anything about some risks, such as being a woman, or simply aging, as the risk does increase with age.
You also cannot do anything about the fact that your mother or sister may have had breast cancer.
You also cannot do anything about the fact that you may never have been pregnant, or if you never breastfed an infant.
And, lastly, you cannot do anything about the fact that your mother may have taken a medication called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while she was pregnant with you, or you yourself may have taken it while pregnant sometime in the 1940s through '60s.
There is a multitude of resources available online (www.breastcancer.org was useful in today's article) to which you can turn for more information.
• Agnes Oblas is an adult nurse practitioner with a private practice and residence in Ahwatukee Foothills. For questions, or if there is a topic you would like her to address, call (602) 405-6320 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.newpathshealth.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.