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Although women are far more likely to die from heart disease, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and remains the single most feared disease, according to a survey commissioned by the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Fortunately, October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be dispelling some of those fears through its extensive educational outreach. From special merchandise in grocery and department stores to pink ribbons worn on lapels, the campaign to raise awareness of the disease that affects millions has grown dramatically since it was first established in 1985.

For the past 20+ years, thousands of female public school educators have been involved in the California Teachers Study, a comprehensive study which revealed that California teachers have a higher-than-expected rate of breast cancer and other forms of the disease.

Continuing to monitor the situation, researchers have gathered data from more than 133,000 teachers in grades kindergarten through community college – both retirees and those currently in the classroom.

Suggested risk factors include:

  • Higher level of education – partly because women who delay having their first child are at increased risk
  • Use of hormone replacement therapy
  • Alcohol consumption – two or more alcoholic beverages a day

Although no one can prevent cancers from occurring in the population, people can take steps to lower their risks. General recommendations include:

  • Regular self-breast exams
  • Regular mammograms for women starting at age 40 to 50 (depending on risk, such as family history)
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising

Learn more