WILMINGTON -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With awareness comes concern with 180,000 new cases of breast cancer this year alone as to how to reduce risk of getting the disease. Some major risk factors for breast cancer can't be changed. Being female, getting older, and having a family history of breast cancer are all associated with an increased risk for the disease. Performing monthly breast self exams and having annual mammograms can help detect cancer in the early stages. When caught early five-year survival rates are as high as 98 percent. Studies also show that maintaining a healthy weight lowers the risk – obese women have a 50 percent increased chance of postmenopausal breast cancer. Other research suggests that greater amount of exercise, especially when young, can decrease the odds of breast cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption is also important. Women who have two or more drinks per day are 20 percent more likely to develop cancer. For women at higher risk due to a family history of the disease, doctors recommend starting mammograms as early as age 25. There are also drugs available for high-risk women such as tamoxifen, which can help prevent breast cancer from developing.
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