Do You Know Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?

Some risks can be modified by lifestyle changes, while other inherent factors may mean you qualify for risk-reducing interventions.

Sch Image Breast Care Screening

While nearly 60 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States are made in patients ages 65 or older, early-onset cancer rates have been climbing in recent decades. According to the National Cancer Institute, the rate of over a dozen different cancers among people under age 50 rose by almost 18 percent between 2000 and 2019.

For example, the incidence of breast cancer in Americans ages 15 to 39 rose more than 17 percent over the 19-year period. Why? Cancer researchers believe environmental and lifestyle changes since the mid-20th century may have increased exposure to risk factors earlier in life. Plus, the rising rates may be due to an increase in breast cancer screenings and early detection.

Sch Image Dr Sarwat Ahmad

“Over the years, earlier detection through screenings such as mammograms has helped lead to improvements in survival rates,” says Sarwat Ahmad, MD, who came to St. Clair Medical Group Breast & General Surgery in 2022 from Mayo Clinic. “But some people are at higher risk for breast cancer than others, and the usual screening guidelines may not apply to them.”

Sch Image Breast Care Center

Some risks can be modified by lifestyle changes, while other inherent factors may mean you qualify for risk-reducing interventions. According to Dr. Ahmad, your risk level can be affected by a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetic Mutations: Some inherited syndromes stemming from mutations in the genes BRCA 1 and 2 can mean you’re at higher risk for breast cancer.
  • Family History: Earlier screening and genetic testing may be recommended if a close relative was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s or younger.
  • Medical History: Certain benign findings in the breast may mean you are at high risk for breast cancer.
  • Treatments: Women who received high doses of radiation to the chest have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
  • Obesity and Diet: Maintaining a healthy weight through diet, exercise, and limited alcohol has been shown to lower one’s risk for breast cancer.

“It’s important to know that having risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop breast cancer,” emphasizes Dr. Ahmad. “If you are unsure about your breast cancer risk or when to begin annual screenings, you should speak with a physician or your primary care provider for the most updated recommendations.”

Call 412.942.7850 to make an appointment with Dr. Ahmad to discuss your risk of developing breast cancer and appropriate screening options.


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