It’s important for everyone to take a holistic approach to health. Having an appropriate diet and engaging in physical activity are just two of the most commonly known components to regulate health, but there are other considerations one should explore to stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
Beyond “day-to-day” wellness activities, such as choosing nutritious foods or going to the gym, modern medical technology has evolved enough to allow individuals to forecast some of their future health challenges that might be encoded in their genetic information. This type of preventative screening is particularly beneficial for certain illnesses which carry a strong genetic component, and breast cancer is one of those diseases with risk factors associated with both family history, and multiple, known genetic mutations.
Am I At Risk To Develop Breast Cancer?
Research has shown that around 1 out of every 8 women (approximately 12%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. In the United States, breast cancer death rates are higher than any other type of cancer (besides lung cancer), and this year alone it’s estimated that roughly 30% of new cancer diagnoses in women will be of the breast.
- Ages 40 to 44: Should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so
- Ages 45 to 54: Should get mammograms every year
- Ages 55 and Older: Should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or continue yearly screening
- Preventative screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
Estrogen: Exploring Hormonal Risk Factors in Women
Hormones play a vital role in our body’s metabolism and day-to-day physiological functioning. Most women are familiar with the role of estrogen, a type of hormone made mainly in the ovaries, which plays an important role in female sexual and reproductive development. Besides the normal, healthy effects of estrogen, it’s also been identified that women who’ve had a higher lifetime exposure to this hormone might see their breast cancer risked increased.
Although the relationship between estrogen and cancer is complex, it is known that estrogen plays a role in the growth of some breast cancer cells. Women who might be at higher risk to develop breast cancer due to irregular estrogen exposure include:
- Those who start their period at a young age
- Women who undergo menopause at a later age
- Those with a long-term history of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT)
Thinking About The Future: How Can I Stay Protected?
Today, women have multiple options to explore to stay healthy and protected against breast cancer. Besides following the latest medical recommendations, genetic testing is becoming an increasingly attractive tool in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of this type of cancer.
A number of modern genomic testing providers offer multipaneled tests, which can provide women a comprehensive view into their risk factors. An example of such a test is the Estrogen DNA Test by Bitcare, which allows women to obtain detailed reports on their estrogen-related risk factors, inefficiencies in estrogen detoxification and metabolization, and other hormonal imbalances.
Women interested in multipaneled genomic testing for breast cancer prevention might also find added benefits beyond the cancer risk identification. For example, DNA test providers such as Bitcare can offer additional wellness recommendations based on unique genetic profiles (e.g. guidance picking the right diet, supplements, etc.) and also connect individuals with genetic counselors which can help navigate the testing and results reporting process.