Sunday, April 22, 2007


According to the breast cancer risk calculator, I have an estimated 99.3% chance of not getting breast cancer in the next five years, and an 86.3% chance of not getting it during my lifetime.

I wish there was a more sophisticated one that took more things into account.

For example, if your mother breastfed you (even for a short time), your risk is reduced (I was the only one of my many siblings who was not breastfed, of course). Breastfeeding your own children reduces your risk, primarily if you do it for longer than one year (so I'm definitely going to be doing that, although that isn't my main reason for doing so.) Having children earlier in life reduces your risk, as it "sets" the cells of your breasts so subsequently they don't change every month with your hormonal cycle (I picture them like little Jell-O particles.)

Being on hormone therapy increases your risk--haven't done that, and won't. Hot flashes, here I come. Used birth control pills? Conflicting results show either increased, decreased, or no change in risk (the earlier pills had much higher hormone levels in them, complicating the research.) On the other hand, being on the pill greatly reduces your risk for both ovarian and colorectal cancer, so there you go.

But I digress, which is what I do best.

The point I was going to make is that breast cancer, while quite scary, is way behind other leading health-related death risks, particularly heart disease. Furthermore, some other top killers* of women (depending on the age group) that people seem to ignore a lot are auto accidents, murder (partner or former partner usually), and suicide (women are currently still stuck with higher depression rates).

So while you're wearing your red dress pin or your pink ribbon as you walk (or whatever you do) for a cure, don't forget that we need your admirable endeavors to improve other aspects of risk, too.

*Maybe someone can make a risk calculator for all these things combined. Now that would be cheery, wouldn't it?

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