Understanding The Cancer Risks In Women


Cancer is a formidable adversary that affects both men and women across the globe. However, there are specific types of cancer that tend to afflict women more frequently than men. These discrepancies often stem from anatomical differences and a combination of other factors. In the United States, cancer stands as the second leading cause of death, trailing only heart disease. The stark reality is that approximately one in four American women succumbs to cancer.

The widespread impact of cancer on women’s health necessitates a profound level of awareness. This article aims to provide an in-depth look at the three most lethal cancers that claim numerous lives among women in the United States.

Lung and Bronchus Cancer

At the forefront of cancers affecting women, lung and bronchus cancer commands attention. This particular cancer type is responsible for over 61,000 female deaths each year in the United States, making it the deadliest among women, even though it’s not the most frequently diagnosed. The primary culprit behind lung cancer remains cigarette smoke, followed by radon gas exposure and secondhand smoke. However, deteriorating air quality in some regions introduces additional environmental risk factors, such as hazardous chemicals and airborne particles. Fortunately, recent trends show a decline in lung cancer death rates, attributed to fewer people taking up smoking and advancements in treating non-small cell lung cancer.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer follows closely behind as the second most lethal cancer affecting women, with an annual toll of approximately 43,250 lives in the United States. It also ranks as the second most diagnosed cancer in American women, trailing only skin cancer. Breast cancer is an adversary that knows no age boundaries, but the risk escalates with age. Several factors contribute to a woman’s vulnerability to breast cancer, including family history, body weight, nulliparity (not bearing children), lack of breastfeeding, and the use of birth control, particularly oral contraceptives. Lifestyle choices, such as exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, alcohol consumption, dietary patterns, and physical activity levels, also play pivotal roles. Importantly, while there is no foolproof way to prevent breast cancer, women have access to crucial preventative measures, including self-exams, mammograms, circulating tumor DNA breast cancer testing, and annual health check-ups conducted by their healthcare providers.

Colon and Rectum Cancer

Colon and rectum cancer, also known as colorectal cancer (CRC), is the third deadliest cancer among women in the United States, claiming over 24,180 lives annually. This cancer type affects both the large and small intestines, including the rectum. Risk factors for CRC encompass being over the age of 50, having a family history of the disease, personal history of polyps, and chronic inflammatory conditions in the intestines, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Lifestyle choices further exacerbate the risk, with smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and diets low in fiber and high in fat being contributing factors. Regular CRC screening, commencing in one’s 40s depending on individual risk factors, is a vital aspect of early detection and prevention. Screening methods include stool-based tests and visual (structural) examinations, such as colonoscopies.

In conclusion, cancer awareness for women is not merely a matter of convenience; it is a matter of life and death. With the prevalence of cancer affecting women at alarming rates, education, regular screenings, and lifestyle choices play integral roles in reducing the impact of these formidable diseases. As we strive for better prevention and treatment strategies, check out the infographic below to learn more.

Infographic provided by Natera

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