A pink reminder to be aware of risks of breast cancer

While October might be best associated with the color orange — hunting, pumpkins, leaves — it also has become a time to think pink.

This is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when pink begins to show up in profusion on products, businesses and football players. The Michigan State Police post on Iron Mountain’s north side has a special vehicle out front with its shield logo in pink. Even the M in the state’s Pure Michigan logo turns pink for the cause.

People generally have fun with the pink theme during October. But the message behind the month is deadly serious: Women need to be regularly screened for breast cancer.

“Breast cancer awareness is an issue very near and dear to my heart,” Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder said. “As a 14-year breast cancer survivor, I know firsthand how this disease can affect an individual, their friends and family. Early detection is critical for survival, and I encourage women to receive regular screenings and become even more educated about this disease.”

Only lung and colon cancer kill more women in Michigan than breast cancer, according to the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, citing figures from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the American Cancer Society.

Michigan this year will have an estimated 8,160 new breast cancer cases and lose 1,410 women to the disease, state officials said.

An estimated 246,000 women and 2,600 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, according to Michigan officials.

The risk rises as a woman gets older, the American Cancer Society warns. Most invasive breast cancers — those that have spread from where they started — are found in women age 55 and older.

The Michigan Cancer Consortium recommends the following for women to better deal with the threat of breast cancer:

— Learn if your family has a history of the disease. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases had strong genetic factors.

— With the increased risk for older women, experts recommend considering starting screening as early as age 40 and having an annual mammogram by age 45. (National Mammography Day, by the way, is Oct. 20.)

— Avoid behaviors that can increase the risk: Quit smoking and control weight and alcohol consumption, as all have been linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer.

— Increase physical activity.

Women should talk with their health care provider about healthy lifestyles and breast cancer prevention and screening. Call 1-844-I-GOT-SCR (446-8727) for more information.

For information about free cancer tests, services and healthy lifestyle information, go to www.michigan.gov/cancer.

It’s worth getting involved. It’s worth getting educated. It’s worth getting screened.