Where you live, work, learn and play can affect your breast health

Where you live, work, learn and play can affect your breast health

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. Conditions in the environments in which people live, work, learn, play and worship, also called social determinants of health (SDoH), influence breast health and health outcomes.

In the United States, 1 in 10 people live in poverty, which means they often have less access to healthy food, healthcare, housing, education and safe living conditions.

Economic stability

  • What is that?
    • Fixed income job opportunities
  • How does economic stability affect breast cancer?
    • Lower socioeconomic status reduces access to health services and comprehensive breast cancer treatment. Decreased access to health care and treatment leads to an increased risk of aggressive premenopausal breast cancers, as well as late stage diagnoses and poor survival rates.


  • What is that?
    • Access to early childhood education, higher education and vocational training
  • How does education affect breast cancer?
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that lower educational attainment is associated with lower attainment screening rates for breast cancer. Lower screening rates lead to worse outcomes. Breast cancer screening and early detection increase the survival rate for breast cancer.

Neighborhood and physical environment

  • What is that?
    • A community’s natural and built environment, such as water and air quality, housing characteristics, transportation, physical activity opportunities, and pedestrian streets
  • How does the lack of safe and convenient places to exercise affect breast cancer?
    • When it’s difficult to be physically active, people are less likely to exercise. Education show that lack of exercise increases the risk of breast cancer.
  • How does lack of transportation affect breast cancer?
    • Living in under-resourced areas and living away from medical facilities makes it difficult to get screening and treatment. Lack of access to screening leads to late stage diagnosis, and lack of transportation makes getting to treatment more difficult.

Access to food

woman doing the shopping

  • What is that?
    • Access to healthy foods
  • How does access to healthy food options affect breast cancer?
    • Limited access to fresh foods and fruits, vegetables and whole grains makes it difficult to eat at nutritious dietwhich can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
    • Limited access to a healthy diet increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These conditions are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Community and social support

  • What is that?
    • Support systems, communities free from discrimination and racism
  • How does community and social support affect breast cancer?
    • Support systems such as health professionals, friends, family and others can help bring information, shared experiences and advice to those diagnosed with breast cancer. Studies show that support systems and supportive communities improve breast cancer treatment outcomes and may reduce cancer diagnosis stress levels and improve overall emotional well-being.

Health care

woman getting a mammogram

  • What is that?
    • The availability of mammograms and other tools for the prevention, screening and treatment of breast cancer; equal treatment of health professionals, health insurance and access to health care
  • How does the quality of healthcare affect breast cancer?
    • The quality of the resources available to you can influence your prognosis. Lack of good insurance coverage and/or lack of a primary care doctor can prevent people from receiving treatment and delay diagnosis. Implicit provider bias and lack of access to modern equipment and treatments can lead to poor results.

This resource was created with support from Merck.

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