LOS ANGELESOctober is breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women other than skin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 211,300 women and 1,300 men will be diagnosed with new cases of breast cancer in the United States this year; 39,800 women and 400 men will die from the disease. I. Benjamin Paz, M.D., director of the Breast Center at COHs Rita Cooper Finkel & J. William Finkel Womens Health Center and vice-chairman of the Division of Surgery at City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles, emphasizes that taking prevention measures reduces the risk of breast cancer and screening and early detection improve treatment outcomes for those who are diagnosed with the disease. The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown but the risk of its development is associated with age, family history, hormonal replacement, race and a number of other risk factors, says Dr. Paz. Some of these risk factors are not controllable, but others can be avoided by making good lifestyle choices. The chance of getting breast cancer increases as a woman gets older. Some studies have shown that taking birth control pills slightly increases the risk of breast cancer and that breast feeding may decrease the chance of developing the disease. Additional risk factors include: u personal or family history (maternal or paternal) of breast cancer u hormone replacement therapy u smoking, especially as a teen-ager or young adult u a breast biopsy showing benign breast proliferation. Dr. Paz recommends that all women older than age 40 visit their physician for a yearly screening mammogram and clinical breast examination (CBE). Women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE preferably every three years. They should conduct monthly breast self-examinations starting in their 20s. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or with benign breast changes that predispose cancer should be evaluated for other prevention strategies. For example, Tamoxifen can reduce the incidence of breast cancer in 50 percent of high risk women. Symptoms may include some of the following: u a new lump or mass in the breast or underarm area u skin irritation or dimpling u nipple pain or the nipple turning inward u redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin u a nipple discharge other than milk. Prevention is the best way to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women and men should take proactive measures to live free of the disease. Dr. Paz suggests the following: u eat a balanced diet, high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat u watch your weight, and exercise daily u limit alcohol consumption, avoid smoking u know the risk factors and be aware of changes in your body u see a physician for regular exams and conduct appropriate self-exams. For more information about breast cancer research and treatment at City of Hope Cancer Center, call 1-800-826-HOPE or visit www.cityofhope.org.