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Former Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams covers 500 mammograms in late mom's honor

The retired football player has sponsored hundreds of breast cancer screenings in several states to honor his mother and aunts he lost to the disease.

Former Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams has been bucking cancer like he used to do defenders, sponsoring more than 500 mammograms in honor of his mother who died from breast cancer at the age of 53.

Williams, who played in college at Memphis and was drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Panthers, started covering the cost for breast cancer screenings in 2015 through his nonprofit, The DeAngelo Williams Foundation.

Now, his organization has covered the expenses of over 500 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina, TODAY reports.

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"To be able to help all these women is amazing. This can be life-changing for these women," the NBC show quotes him in the Wednesday report as saying. "We are enabling them to get this care that no one should ever be denied or not have access to."

Williams' mother, Sandra Hill, died from breast cancer, and he also lost his four aunts to the disease before the age of 50.

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) watches the scoreboard in the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. The Falcons won 19-17. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

The following is information directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on breast cancer risk factors.

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

  • Getting older. The risk for breast cancer increases with age; most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
  • Genetic mutations. Inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive history. Early menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Having dense breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, which can sometimes make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram. Women with dense breasts are more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases. Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Family history of breast cancer. A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy. Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts (like for treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
  • Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), which was given to some pregnant women in the United States between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, have a higher risk. Women whose mothers took DES while pregnant with them are also at risk.

Risk Factors You Can Change

  • Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
  • Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy (those that include both estrogen and progesterone) taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
  • Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
  • Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.