3 breast cancer risks you can control and 1 your doctor may not know about

The older you get, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

In fact, while women under the age of 40 rarely develop breast cancer, it’s most common in those over 70 years old.

But what puts some women at risk, while others live a long healthy life unscathed?

Well, you might be surprised…

Most people automatically think of family history when it comes to this type of cancer. Of course, if your mom, your grandmother or your aunts were diagnosed with breast cancer, you should be checked regularly to catch the disease early.

Yet, the truth is that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary despite the number of celebrities like Christina Applegate, Sharon Osbourne and Angelina Jolie who have spoken openly about their decisions to undergo preventative double mastectomies after finding out they carried one of the “breast cancer genes.”

You should know that there are many more factors that play into whether you end up with breast cancer, or not. But here’s the rub — some you can control and some you can’t… and one your doctor probably doesn’t even know about yet.

#1 – Hot Flashes

New research published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that women who have persistent vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer post-menopause.

The study followed more than 25,000 women for close to 18 years and found: “In this large group of women who were not users of hormone therapy, persistent hot flashes and night sweats for 10 or more years were associated with a slight but significant increase in breast cancer incidence,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

Related: Hormones for women: The benefits of progesterone, the problems with progestin (Provera®)

Yet, since this is brand new research, you’ll probably never hear about it when you visit your doctor and unfortunately, it’s not something you can do much about.

The good news is that the next things we’re going to talk about are in your control, like this one…

#2 – Weight

The same study that made the hot flash/higher-risk breast cancer-connection also found that if you have an elevated body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, you’re at higher risk for breast cancer than women who maintain an optimal weight.

So, how does your weight affect your breast cancer risk?

Well, it all comes down to the hormone estrogen. Unfortunately, after menopause, when your ovaries stop producing the hormone, your body makes and stores more fat. A lot of this is visceral fat which produces hormones — yep, estrogen.

That means that the more fat you have, the higher your estrogen and therefore the higher your risk.

#3 – Alcohol

The study also found that drinking alcohol (another factor that is completely in your control) adds to your breast cancer risk post-menopause.

Once again, it’s due to estrogen.

That’s because alcohol affects your liver’s ability to control the levels of estrogen in your body. And, just like we talked about in relation to your weight, when your estrogen goes up, your breast cancer risk goes with it.

#4 – Exercise

And finally, how much you exercise could determine whether or not you wind up with breast cancer.

That’s because according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, exercise works on two fronts…

First, it helps you get lean, combatting that fat-estrogen connection.

And second, it may help boost your body’s immune system to help slow the growth of cancer cells or even kill them.

Your risk of breast cancer may go up as you age, but much of it is in your hands. Stay active, kick the alcohol, lose any excess pounds that you’ve been carrying and don’t forget to be screened regularly, especially if you’ve suffered from chronic hot flashes.

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  1. The Who, What, Where, When And Sometimes, Why: Age — Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
  2. The Who, What, Where, When And Sometimes, Why: Exercise (Physical Activity) — Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
  3. Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Cannot Change — American Cancer Society
  4. What Other Stars Have Shared About Double Mastectomies — thecut.com
  5. Angelina Jolie: Breasts Don’t Define Femininity — thecut.com
  6. Persistent hot flashes may lead to increased risk of breast cancer — EurekAlert!
  7. Breast Cancer Risk Factors — Breastcancer.org
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.