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Why is the impact of Breast Cancer important to Albertans?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Alberta.1 About 2,350 women were diagnosed in 2012.2

  • The risk of a woman getting breast cancer starts rising at about the age of 25. The risk keeps getting higher until about age 75 and then gets lower for older women.
  • Between 1992 and 2012, the rate of new breast cancer cases for women in Alberta stayed about the same. During the same time, the rate of dying from breast cancer went down about 3% a year.
  • Better treatments for breast cancer played a big role in helping more women survive. Also, more women are being screened through the Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program, so breast cancer is being found earlier. This means that treatments can work better so women can have better outcomes.
  • Breast cancer also occurs in men, but it is rare. Fewer than 15 men are diagnosed in Alberta each year.

What can I do?

Experts in Alberta agree that we can prevent about 50 out of 100 cases of breast cancer.2 Here’s how:

Not being active enough is linked to about 17% of new cancer cases.

To prevent cancer, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) recommend being active3 (e.g., brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes each day and limiting sedentary habits like watching television.

Being overweight is linked to about 8% of new cases. The WCRF/AICR recommend adults stay at a healthy body weight4 and keep their body mass index (BMI) in the normal range. Use our BMI Tool to find the healthy weight range for you.

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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is medication used to treat the symptoms of menopause. HRT is linked to about 15% of new breast cancer cases. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends women not use HRT for any reason other than to help the symptoms of menopause that don’t respond to other treatments. The Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program recommends using HRT for no longer than 5 years. Within 2 years of stopping HRT, a woman’s risk of breast cancer goes back to that of the general population. Speak with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of HRT.

Using birth control pills (oral contraceptives) is linked to about 6% of new cases. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that taking birth control pills increases the risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer,5 especially in women who are taking or who stopped taking them in the last 10 years. On the other hand, IARC also found that taking birth control pills appears to lower the risk of both endometrial and ovarian cancer.5

It’s important for women to speak with their health care provider about their own and their family history of cancer and other health conditions if they’re thinking about taking birth control pills.

More information on breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment at MyHealth Alberta.

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