Breast cancer is increasing in younger women. According to the American Cancer Society, we’re currently seeing an increase of about 3% per year in women under age 40.
Young women may have more aggressive types of breast cancer than older women. They may also dismiss concerns — such as finding a lump in a breast — because they think they are too young to have to worry about breast cancer.
Why is breast cancer increasing among younger women?
It is not yet clear why younger women are facing more cases of breast cancer. Some of the possible factors:
- Increasing levels of obesity
- Waiting until a later age to have children
- Increasingly polluted environments
- Lack of physical activity
- Increased use of alcohol
- Highly processed foods
All of these changes have taken place among young women during the time studied. All of them have been associated with higher rates of breast cancer.
However, there is no definitive answer yet.
What should women do?
The Breast Center recommends annual mammograms for women age 40 and over. While the percentage of women under 40 who have breast cancer has increased, it is still rare among younger women. Mammograms for younger women are not currently recommended as a routine part of health care.
However, there are things younger women can do. Breast self-exams should be a regular part of your self-care routine. Click through below to see step-by-step instructions.
In addition, young women should have a yearly clinical breast exam at their gynecology or primary care appointment.
If a close relative had breast cancer before age 50, we recommend you start screening mammograms 10 years before the relative’s diagnosis, as early as age 30. If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, your doctor may recommend you make an appointment for a Breast Cancer Risk Assessment to develop a personalized screening plan.
Genetic testing is also an option for women under 40 and is discussed as an option during a Risk Assessment appointment at The Breast Center. This type of testing can help younger women identify risks that might affect their decisions about when to begin mammograms or other screening.
Women at every age should also make lifestyle choices that encourage breast health. Healthy habits reduce the chances of developing breast cancer, though it is not completely preventable. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and avoiding risky behavior like smoking can reduce the overall risk.
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