"Unfortunately, college-age women generally do not consider themselves at risk for breast cancer," Dr. Isabelle Mercier, a research assistant professor at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said in a statement. "However, there are several risk factors that contribute to the development of breast cancer that need to be understood early in life to prevent the development of breast cancer down the road."
Women in their early 20s need to know some risk factors associated with breast cancer:
-- A family history of breast cancer, particularly in a mother or sister, can increase the chance for developing breast cancer.
-- Obesity is responsible for up to 20 percent of cancer-associated deaths in women. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer by creating a cancer-friendly environment through fat cells.
-- Women who strive for at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, reduce their risk of breast cancer by 18 percent.
-- If a female averages a drink per day, her risk of breast cancer increases by 11 percent. Studies show that alcohol possesses estrogenic activity, thus promoting the growth of breast tumor cells.
-- Although mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of 40, young women should still see their primary care doctors each year for clinical breast exams.
-- Women who smoke have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially if they become smokers early in life.
By the end of 2013, more than 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States and of those cases, approximately 40,000 will die, Mercier said.