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While women aged 50 and above should still be going for regular mammograms to detect breast cancer, there are several breast cancer risk factors that would heighten one’s risk of getting breast cancer. According to the Singapore Cancer Society, here are some of the most important risk factors in getting breast cancer.
Being overweight or obese – Women who are overweight or obese will have a higher risk of developing breast cancer at an early age. Once women hit menopause near their 50s, their ovaries largely stop producing the female hormone estrogen. After menopause, estrogen is mostly produced by a woman’s fat tissue. Having a higher body fat percentage would mean a higher estrogen level, which will heighten the risk of a women getting breast cancer.
Dietary factors – Similarly, having a healthy diet will reduce a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer. Studies suggest that a diet that is very low in fat will reduce the risk of cancer in women. A daily diet with at least two servings of vegetables and fruit with a saturated fat intake of less than 10% of total calories is highly recommended.
Regular exercise – Keeping a regular exercise regimen is considered to have a positive effect towards lowering cancer risk for women in Singapore. Around 45 minutes of exercise 5 to 6 days a week is recommended by the Health Promotion Board of Singapore.
Smoking & Alcohol consumption – Alcohol consumption affects liver function. The liver is the primary organ that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood levels of estrogen, the main hormone that leads to the development of breast cancer. The Health Promotion Board recommends that women consume no more than one standard drink per day. Smoking has also been linked to a small increase in breast cancer risk in women.
Usage of oral contraceptives – Women who are using oral contraceptives will have their hormone levels affected, which can cause a slight risk for breast cancer. However, this only refers to recent use and this effect only happens for a limited amount of time. If a woman has stopped using oral contraceptives for a period of 10 years or more, then this does not apply to them.
Pregnancy – For many women, this is one of the risk factors that are completely out of your control. When a women is pregnant, they stop their usual menstrual cycle, which lowers the total number of menstrual cycles they will ever experience in their life. This appears to increase the chance of breast cancer in the future. On the other hand, breastfeeding has been shown to actually lower the risk of breast cancer in women.