As we reach the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s talk about a growing area of awareness – breast cancer prevention.
Many risk factors that increase breast cancer risk – including personal or family history of breast cancer, BRCA gene mutations, certain genetic conditions and reproductive history – cannot be changed. But there are some lifestyle and occupational risk factors that can be changed through healthy living or policies that protect the health of Canadian women.
Through the ComPARe and Burden of Occupational Cancer studies, we learned that about one-third of breast cancer cases can be prevented, and we now have a better understanding of 8 key modifiable risk factors (shown in the infographic below) that contribute to breast cancer risk.
It’s important to note that these 8 risk factors are not the only modifiable risk factors for breast cancer. The ComPARe study focused on the majority of the most common and most researched cancer risk factors. Three additional risk factors for breast cancer – breastfeeding, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – were not included because of we’re missing data to help us understand how many women breastfeed, take oral contraceptives or take HRT.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women. It is also the second leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian women. Together, we can reduce the number of breast cancer cases in the future by increasing physical activity, increasing healthy diets and decreasing tobacco smoking. These changes can start at an individual level (as can other changes that women can make to reduce their risk of breast cancer), but we must also create supportive environments that make decreasing cancer risk easier.
Elizabeth Holmes, MPH
Manager, Health Policy, Canadian Cancer Society
ComPARe study Knowledge Translation team