The Risk Of Breast Cancer And Its Incomprehensible Numbers

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The Risk Of Breast Cancer And Its Incomprehensible Numbers
The Risk Of Breast Cancer And Its Incomprehensible Numbers
Video: The Risk Of Breast Cancer And Its Incomprehensible Numbers
Video: Risks Factors for Breast Cancer 2023, February

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand when people, especially doctors, scientists, and journalists, talk about cancer. This is in part because so many numbers and statistics are used without really explaining what they mean. A famous philosopher once said that "mathematics is the language of science." But, most of us don't speak that language very well. Here are some ways to think about the numbers professionals use when talking about cancer.

For example, many of the numbers you will see or hear about Hispanic women's risk of breast cancer are statistics known as "incidences." This is a general number that indicates what is happening in the world right now. It refers to a group of living people - a group that is large and general enough to be considered "average" - and says how many members of the group have the disease that is being talked about.

Many statistics also use percentages (%), which refer to a fraction of a hundred; 100% of something always means all of that something. So, if 10 friends go to lunch and only 3 have wine, this would be 30%. The incidence of breast cancer in women in a recent year was 78.1 out of 100,000, which means that less than 1% of all Hispanic women had breast cancer in that year. For 2009, this translates to approximately 14,200 new cases in the United States.

What is the probability that you can get breast cancer?

If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, the risk will be higher than that of someone your same age if that woman has no close family member with the disease. This is because family members share some important genes and also tend to live in similar environments. Other personal risk factors, such as weight, alcohol consumption, and the use of hormone therapy for menopause, can also affect the risk.

The researchers, reviewing years of past data, found that 1 in 11 Hispanic women will have some form of breast cancer in their lifetime. So, if we leave out the other risk factors mentioned above, the risk of cancer in your lifetime is a little more than 9%. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that suffering from breast cancer between the ages of 40 to 70 years increases the possibility of suffering each year. At 40 years of age, the risk is 1 in 1,404 (7 hundredths of 1%). At age 50, the risk is 1 in 657 (one-fifteenth of 1%). At age 60, the risk is 1 in 343 (one-fifth of 1%).

However, this number does not completely determine what your risk could be since there are other factors that increase or decrease this possibility. The numbers can be confusing, and you have a right to understand what professionals are saying about your health. So don't hesitate to ask for explanations until you really understand what they mean. For more information, you can also visit the website of the National Cancer Institute.

Photo: iStockphoto

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