Mothers and daughters nationwide are beating the odds of developing hereditary breast cancer. The American Cancer Society says that five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are caused by gene defects inherited from a parent. Sara Olson, wife, mother of two and daughter of a breast cancer survivor, is reducing her chances of developing breast cancer by focusing on a healthy lifestyle.
“First and foremost is to do self breast exams monthly and to know your body,” said Olson, rural resident of Badger, Minn. “Then I need to get my yearly physicals complete with my doctor.”
Having one first-degree relative with breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, approximately doubles a womans risk, and having two first-degree relatives increases a womans risk about triple.
Olsons mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2007 at the age of 50.
“My doctor has recommended me to get a mammogram 10 years earlier than my mom so at the age of 40,” said Olson.
Yet, women are not destined to develop breast cancer if a close blood relative has the disease. Other environmental and personal factors can increase the risk of a woman developing breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society lists risk factors including age, race, environment and personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and diet that contribute to the disease.
These risk factors can be reduced in postmenopausal women if they establish healthy habits such as engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and drinking alcohol in moderation, according to a study published on October 12, 2010, in the journal of Breast Cancer Research.
The studys author, Dr. Robert Gramling, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, defined regular physical activity to be 20 minutes of heart-rate raising exercise at least five times a week. A healthy body weight was having a body mass index of 18.5 to under 25 and moderate alcohol intake was defined as fewer than seven drinks a week.
“Doing regular exercise is the main prevention I do,” said Olson. “Walking has become part of my daily routine, walking 30 minutes daily.”
Engaging in one and a quarter to two and half hours per week of brisk walking, according to the Womens Health Initiative (WHI), can reduce a womans risk by 18 percent.
Maintaining a healthy weight and having a nutritious diet is also vital to Olson. The National Cancer Institute claims that after menopause, obese women have one and a half times the risk of developing breast cancer of women of a healthy weight.
“Eating healthy is very important,” Olson said. “Veggies and fruits are in my daily diet.”
Olson has also limited her alcohol consumption. According to the American Cancer Society, women who have two to five alcoholic drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk of developing breast cancer than women who drink no alcohol.
“Whether or not you have a family history, the risk of breast cancer was lower for women engaged in these three sets of behaviors compared to women who were not,” said Gramling.
Another factor Olson has taken into consideration is breast-feeding her children.
“They say breast-feeding children can help reduce the risk of breast cancer,” said Olson. “I have chosen to breast-feed both of my children and will choose to breast-feed my third.”
More information about breast cancer can be found on the following sites: