Breast Cancer Risk: What’s Age Got to Do With It?

May 22, 2009

By Dagny Stuart
Ingrid Meszoely, M.D.

When Hollywood actress Christina Applegate shared her breast cancer story, including her inherited risk for the disease, many young women were left wondering about their own risk.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in the United States. If caught in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is as high as 98 percent. Still, breast cancer will claim 40,500 lives this year, making breast cancer the second leading cause of cancer deaths among woman.

“Applegate’s decision to share her story no doubt prompted discussion about breast cancer risk among countless young women and their doctors,” said Ingrid Meszoely, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Breast Center High-Risk Breast Cancer Clinic at One Hundred Oaks.

“However, these cases represent just one story of breast cancer risk. Equally important are the stories of women in their 50s, 60s or 70s who may not recognize their own risk of breast cancer is increasing.”

The average age at diagnosis is 50 and the greatest risk factors are simply being female and getting older.

Meszoely will discuss breast cancer during a free Webcast, “Breast Cancer Risk: What’s Age Got to Do with It?” at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 26, at www.patientpower.info. Patient Power host Andrew Schorr and Meszoely will discuss breast cancer risk and take questions from the audience.

Genetic predisposition contributes to only about 15 percent of breast cancers, according to Meszoely. Other risk factors include family history without mutation of the known breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2); age at menarche, menopause and first childbirth; ethnicity; obesity; alcohol consumption; and use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

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