An ordinary tumor in breast may become cancerous due to mutations in the DNA. While some of these are inherited, most of the known DNA mutations related to breast cells are acquired due to one’s lifestyle.
There are numerous inconclusive risk factors such as the use of deodorants and there are plenty of myths. This article will list the most clearly defined risk factors that are more likely to lead to breast cancer. The risk factors for breast cancer are:
Age: Higher the age, greater is the chances of breast cancer.
Genetic Risk Factors: The most common cause of breast cancer is mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Mutations of these genes could result in breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. Another gene, TP53 could also cause breast cancer.
As one might inherit a mutated gene from a parent, there is a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- The risk of breast cancer if higher among women whose relatives have had breast cancer.
- It was a common practice to consume Di Ethyl Stilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy as a miscarriage preventive medicine. Women, whose mothers consumed DES while they were pregnant with them, have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Personal History: If one breast develops cancer, it increases
- The risk of cancer in other breast and/or
- The risk of an additional cancer in the same breast
Benign Breast Conditions: Women who experience one or more of these non cancerous breast changes such as cyst/lumps, breast swelling and/or discomfort, skin redness/thickening, inverted nipple, and nipple discharge have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Menstruation: Both the early onset of menstruation (before 12 years of age) and the late onset menopause (after 55 years of age) have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.
Breast Tissue: Denser the breast tissues higher is the risk of breast cancer.
Ethnicity: When compared to Asian, Hispanic, African American women, white women are at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Radiation: Exposure to radiation to chest or face increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Earlier the age of radiation exposure, higher is the risk. Women who have received ionizing radiation while treating Hodgkin’s disease before 35 years of age are at a higher risk of having breast cancer.
Pregnancy: Not having a full term pregnancy before 30 years of age increases the risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding the baby for more than a year lowers the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol Consumption: Higher the rate of alcohol consumption greater is the breast cancer risk. Alcohol increases the estrogen levels and few more hormones that could induce hormone-receptor- positive breast cancer. In addition, alcohol consumption could damage the DNA, which in turn increases the breast cancer risk. Studies have shown that women who consume more than 3 drinks a day have a 1.5 times higher risk.
Smoking: It is a well-known fact that smoking causes a lot of diseases. However, you may not know that it increases the breast cancer risk among younger, pre-menopausal women. In addition, smoking also causes further complications during the breast cancer treatment, such as:
- Further damage to the lungs after radiation therapy
- Delayed healing after surgery and breast reconstruction
- Increased risk of blood clots after hormone Therapy
Obesity: Being overweight or obese, having BMI over 25, increases the risk of breast cancer, more among postmenopausal women. Fat cells make estrogen, which increases the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. The fat around belly is a greater threat than fat around thighs or other areas.
Use of Oral Contraceptives: Using an oral contraceptive increases the risk of breast cancer to a smaller extent. This risk increase with the women’s age. You may consider to not consuming the oral contraceptive pill beyond 30 years of age. However, the breast cancer risk fades away once you stop taking these pills.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): It was a common practice in past years to take HRT after menopause. However, when the research proved that undergoing HRT increases the risk of breast cancer, this had dropped drastically. There are two major types of HRTs, namely:
- Combination HRT: uses both estrogen and progesterone
- Estrogen only HRT
The combination HRT poses a greater threat as compared to the later. While combination HRT increases the breast cancer risk by 75% within the first 2-3 years, the estrogen only HRT poses a threat only after using it for more than 10 years.
Exercise: Women who regularly spend 4-7 hours of doing moderate to intense exercise face a lower risk of breast cancer. More fat cells imply higher estrogen levels and hence higher is the risk of breast cancer.
Vitamin D levels: Lower the level of Vitamin D, higher is the breast cancer risk. Researches suggest that maintaining a good Vitamin D level may be able to stop the breast cancer cell growth as Vitamin D may control the breast cell growth.
- Workplace exposure to certain carcinogens and endocrine disruptors may increase breast cancer risk.
- Women who work at night and who stay longer with external light are at a higher risk of breast cancer. These women have a lower melatonin level, and as a result the breast cancer risk increases.
Eating Healthy Food: Diet plays a major role in preventing many cancers. Though healthy food habits do not prevent breast cancer, they definitely boost the immune system and thus considerably lower the risk of breast cancer.
Exposure to Chemicals:Exposure to chemicals in our surroundings directly or indirectly influences the risk of breast cancer. Some of the chemicals that could be riskier are:
- Parabens and phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products
- Pesticides that can be found in produce that are NOT natural and organic
- Chemical fertilizers and pesticides that you use for lawns and gardens
- Bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastic and in bottled water that is packed in a non-recyclable plastic bottle
- Chemicals (heterocyclic amines – HCAs) formed while meat is grilled, barbequed and smoked at a very high temperature
The above article serves only as reference. Kindly refer to your primary care provider for complete consultation and treatment.
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