We inherit many things from our mothers, including our health, but that doesn’t mean we should consider it a done deal. By understanding our inherited predisposition to common health worries, we can make lifestyle changes and strive to end some of these common conditions that, until now, have run in the family.
But where to start? There are plenty of health-related issues you should and could ask your mother about, but because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to stress the importance of this one very vital question:
Mom, has anyone in your immediate family had breast cancer?
After watching her mother die of breast cancer at the age of 56, Angelina Jolie started her own global health phenomenon by announcing that she’d undergone a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against the disease. According to Macmillan Cancer Support (a UK-based organisation offering information and resources), 5% to 10% of breast-cancer cases are inherited, and having a mother with breast cancer doubles your risk.
What can you do?
If you have a family history of breast cancer (not just your mom – sisters, aunts, grandmothers and cousins could all suggest an increased risk), talk to your GP. Your doctor may recommend genetic testing and, if your risk is found to be higher, more frequent screening and testing. Women who carry the mutated genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are more at risk of developing breast cancer, so it’s important that they are regularly screened. Some women who have the genes and a family history of cancer, like Angelina Jolie, get prophylactic mastectomies to reduce their chances of developing the disease. For those who don’t carry the genes, lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet and breast-feeding can minimise risk, and regular exercise has been shown to have a protective effect.