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Breast cancer is a relatively common type of cancer. In fact, it is the most common cancer worldwide and the most common cancer diagnosed in the US. Currently nearly 4 million women in the US alone are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, this doesn't make a diagnosis easier, but it does mean a great deal of research and effort is being put towards ending it and it's working. Survival rates continue to go up as treatments get better and more tailor made to each patient.

Just like any cancer, breast cancer results from DNA mutations that instruct your cells to grow out of control. In this case, it targets cells in the breast tissue, and there's no single thing that causes these DNA mutations. There are a wide set of risk factors. But having more of these risk factors, can increase your chances of developing breast cancer. More than anything, your risk is increased by being female. That doesn't mean men don't get it. Actually, men account for about 1 percent of all cases. Another factor is age. The older you get, the more likely a breast cancer diagnosis becomes. A history of breast cancer increases your risk too, that includes your own personal history if you've had it before and your family history. If breast cancer is common in your family tree, you are likely at increased risk of developing it. Scientists have identified several genes that if inherited, are more likely to cause breast cancer. There are many, but the most common and well studied are, BRCA1 and BRCA2. While they don't make breast cancer a certainty, your chances of developing it are much higher with these particular mutations. Beyond that, radiation exposure at any point in your life increases your risk of breast cancer. As does having children at what is scientifically considered an older age. Starting menopause at an older age and taking postmenopausal hormones.

There are things that can decrease your risk. Self breast awareness is one. Make note of any changes you notice in your breasts. Women aged 40 and older should get yearly mammograms. Early detection is really your best defense based on your other personal risk factors, you may want to consult with your doctor about starting at even a younger age. Limiting alcohol, while not drinking lowers your risk the most. Drinking in moderation lowers your risk too. Stay physically active and try to maintain a healthy weight. You can talk to your doctor if you struggle with this. In some cases, post-menopausal hormones are necessary and can't be avoided. But be aware that they do seem to play a role in breast cancer risk. If you give birth, breastfeeding may reduce your chances of developing breast cancer in the future.

Things to keep an eye out for that might be signs, including lumps or thickening in your breast, changes in the size or shape of your breast, changes in your breast skin, or a new inversion of your nipple. Peeling, scaling or flaking of the areola and redness or pitting of the skin of your breast that looks like an orange. Most importantly, because these things may or may not be cancer, be sure to check with your doctor if you notice any of these signs