Breast Cancer Awareness

Abrie McCoy
October 27, 2022

October is a time for changes in weather and scenery, but also a time to talk about breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst females across the globe.4 So why October? Back in 1985 the American Cancer Society partnered with Imperial Chemical Industries kicked off the campaign to increase awareness and early detection for breast cancer.6 Betty Ford had assisted in these efforts, inspired by her own battle with breast cancer.6 The well known pink ribbon actually debuted in 1992, with 1.5 million of them distributed by Estée Lauder.6 To this day, the pink ribbon remains the symbol for breast cancer awareness.

Who does it affect?

Breast cancer is most common in women. However it can affect men as well ( To put it plainly, being a human who has breast tissue- you are able to get breast cancer. As a female, our risk is higher, facing the staggering statistic of 1 in 7 women being diagnosed during their lifetime.4 For every 100 cases of breast cancer diagnoses, 1 of them is male.2 

Risk Factors

Unchangeable Risk Factors

There are different factors that add to the risk of breast cancer. However, not all of them are in our power to change. Such as genetics. Having the BRCA1 and/or BRCA 2 gene mutation increases the risk of breast cancer for both men and women. Reproductive history such as menarche (age of first menstrual cycle), late onset menopause can also have influence on breast cancer risk. As well as personal and familial history of breast or ovarian cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases. Radiation treatment in the chest area before the age of 30 years old can increase the risk of breast cancer.3

  • Reproductive history
  • Personal History
  • Familial History
  • Radiation treatment
  • Age
  • Genetic Mutations

Changeable Risk Factors

We can be in control of our health and change some of the habits that increase our risk of breast cancer. Such as:

  • Physical activity
  • Overweight
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Reproductive history
  • Alcohol use

You may be wondering why reproductive history is both an unchangeable and changeable risk factor. How is this possible? Having your first menstrual cycle early and not experiencing menopause until after 55 results in an increase of exposure to estrogen. However, that is not in your control. Your exposure to estrogen is limited while pregnant and/or breast + chest feeding. Should you choose to be pregnant and/or breast + chest feed, you limit your exposure, in turn decreasing your risk.3

In addition to limiting exposure to estrogen while pregnant and/or breast + chest feeding, your risk of breast cancer is reduced because of the shedding of breast tissue during this time. Which assists in disposing of cells with DNA mutations.5 

Prevention and Early Detection

If you are wanting to be proactive after learning that you have an increased risk of breast cancer, there are some steps you can take for prevention and early detection. Such as:

  • Breast exams (mammograms, and breast MRIs)
  • Genetic counseling and testing
  • Preventative surgery (mammectomy)
  • Pharmaceutical treatment to lower breast cancer risk.1

If you are not already, you can always start doing monthly self breast exams. Check out instructions on how to here.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation has a great tool as well! 



1. American Cancer Society. (2021, December 16). Can I Lower My Risk of Breast Cancer?; American Cancer Society.

2. CDCBreastCancer. (2022, September 25). Breast Cancer in Men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 20). What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

4. Community Health of Central Washington. (n.d.). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month | Community Health of Central Washington. Community Health of Central Washington. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from

5. Cordeiro, B. (2014, October). Breastfeeding lowers your breast cancer risk. MD Anderson Cancer Center.

6. Dev, R. P. S. (2019, October 17). A Brief History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Brevard Health Alliance.