5 facts for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is the time of year when you begin to see pink ribbons on car windows, during sport games and more. It symbolizes the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Millions of Americans are already aware of breast cancer, but this annual initiative has evolved in many ways over time. It encourages men and women of all ages to take the necessary steps to detect the disease in its early stages, and make long-term health choices.

Even with years of research and activism in place, today 1 in 8 American women will develop some form of breast cancer over their lifetimes. The disease is still a daunting public health challenge.

The following facts from the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure illustrate how big of an issue breast cancer continues to be:

Estimates reveal there will be 246,600 new invasive breast cancer cases (in 2016 alone)

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women. Cancer remains among the most pressing women's health issues today, even though total diagnoses have fallen in recent decades. Early detection is pivotal. Cancer can be treatable and survivable (a 5-year relative survival rate of 100 percent), especially if the cancer is discovered in the localized stage (including Stage 0-1).

Breast cancer risk is higher in overweight or obese women (after menopause)

Higher insulin levels in the blood can tie into cancer, including breast cancer. Studies examined the link between a person's body mass index (BMI), and found that gaining weight after menopause increases a woman's risk of breast cancer and is a leading risk factor.

Only 5-10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations

Despite genetic links, only a small percentage of diagnoses are directly tied to genetic abnormalities passed down between successive generations. In the vast majority of cases, breast cancer cases are sporadic, which again highlights the need for early detection and regular screenings.

The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (female) and age (40 and older).

Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than it is for women. A woman's risk of developing this type of cancer will increase each decade as she ages. While factors such as diet and activity levels play a role, gender and age are the universal risk factors.

Breast cancer death rates have dropped steadily in recent decades

Breast cancer death rates have dropped steadily each year since 1989. Medical experts attribute positive changes to better public education about the disease. In addition, an increase in early detection rates and better treatment methods have helped. Simply put, the public awareness campaign and funds donated during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month have made a real and lasting difference in the fight against the disease.

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