Last week, Healthline hosted a Twitter chat with breast cancer experts to help women get important information about their risks.
Joining in on the chat were medical oncologist Dr. Julie Gralow (@jrgralow), Kimmy McAtee of the Keep a Breast Foundation (@keepabreast), Josh Fernandez and Janine Guglielmino of Living Beyond Breast Cancer (@LivingBeyondBC), and Amanda Bontempo, Maria Romano, and Tess Creamer, oncology dietitians at Montefiore Medical Center (@MontefioreNYC).
Here’s what the experts had to say during Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
Who Is at Risk for Developing Breast Cancer?
“The two biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being female and getting older, so all women are at risk,” Gralow said. “After being female and getting older, the number of menstrual cycles you have in your life is another risk factor.”
The Montefiore team tweeted that one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) said that women with all lifestyles and from all walks of life get breast cancer, but Keep A Breast noted that only five to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, “so living a healthy lifestyle is essential.”
“Low physical activity, being overweight, and drinking too much alcohol are also risk factors that you can control!” Gralow tweeted.
Are Men at Risk for Developing Breast Cancer?
Though rare, male breast cancer is a real condition. Male breast cancer makes up less than one percent of all breast cancer cases, the Montefiore team said.
In 2012, Keep a Breast expected about 2,190 new cases of invasive breast cancer among men, with approximately 410 deaths.
How You Can Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk
“Being physically active, maintaining a good body weight, limiting alcohol can all reduce your risk,” Gralow said.
The Montefiore dietitians recommend having vegetables take up at least half your plate and limiting added sugars in your diet. They also suggest limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, and exercising regularly to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Keep a Breast tweeted that avoiding common toxins that are linked to cancer, such as ones that mimic estrogen—parabens, mercury, phthalates, and atrazine—can help to reduce a woman’s risk.
“We know that pesticides in large amounts and radiation exposure can increase breast cancer risk,” Gralow said.
Who Should Get Genetic Testing?
Keep a Breast tweeted that genetic testing is recommended if members of your family have been diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50, if you have a family history of male breast cancer, or if a single family member has or has had two or more primary cancers.
Montefiore tweeted that women with a family history of breast cancer should be tested for BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, but “regardless of genetic risk, it's important to focus on the factors you can control.”
What Do Women Need to Know About Breast Health?
The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation recommends regular breast exams and following up on any abnormalities with your doctor.
The Montefiore team said to do a monthly breast self-exam in the shower, and that women over 40 should get an annual mammogram.
“Make yourself your priority. Choose one new healthy habit per week. A healthy lifestyle can lower breast cancer risk,” they tweeted.
For the rest of Healthline’s #BeastHealthChat, view the transcript here.