October is Breast Health Awareness Month. In recognition of this, Scripps College has organized an ad hoc committee to plan October events that will help Scripps women stay informed and aware of the issue of breast health.
Since breast cancer is a disease that primarily affects women—less than 1 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer are male—it is particularly important for Scripps women to be informed about it. Although it is uncommon in women under 35, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer. According to the most recent statistics, breast cancer ranks among the top 10 causes of death for women in the United States.
Breast cancer is a fundamental concern for women’s health, and giving extra attention to breast health in general is an important part of being a healthy woman.
In previous years, Scripps has organized speakers’ visits for October that recognized breast health awareness month. In 2001, Scripps invited Dr. Susan Love —author of “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book” and advocate for breast cancer awareness—to speak on women’s health issues in a 75-year anniversary event for the College. In October of 2002, Dr. Jerri Nielsen—who diagnosed and began treating her aggressive form of breast cancer while working away from cancer treatment facilities, and wrote about her experience in “Ice Bound, A Doctor’s Struggle for Survival at the South Pole”—visited for the Founder’s Day celebration and spoke in the Alexa Fullerton Hampton Distinguished Speakers Program.
Awareness of personal and family histories with breast diseases is important in assessing risk for breast cancer. Some genes and non-cancerous breast diseases may predispose people toward having breast cancer.
Although estrogen plays a role in stimulating the growth of cancer cells, use of oral contraceptives has not been shown to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet—avoiding excessive fat intake, getting plenty of fiber and fresh fruits and vegetables—are lifestyle choices that can help reduce the risk of cancer in general. Limiting alcohol consumption has also been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer; women who average two or more drinks per day show a small increase in breast cancer risk. Smoking is not recommended for those who wish to avoid cancer. Though smoking does not cause breast cancer, it increases the chance of other cancers that may spread to the breast.
Breast cancer is just one facet of women’s health. This October, women should take advantage of Scripps’ events, and do their breasts the favor of a little extra attention.