Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Over the past century, breast cancer has increasingly become one of the top causes of death in women. Breast cancer usually occurs when malignant cells form a mass in the ducts and/or lobules of a woman’s breast. While this disease can also occur in men, it is most likely to occur in women. According to an assessment that was released by the National Cancer Institute in 2012, there have been at least 226,870 new cases and 39,510 deaths related to breast cancer in women. While there is still no cure for breast cancer, there are many promising treatments. However, breast cancer prevention is possible. One of the best ways for an individual to start his/her breast cancer prevention plan is to become aware of the many breast cancer risk factors. Provided below is a descriptive list of some of the common breast cancer risk factors that have been discovered and studied by medical professionals.
Common Breast Cancer Risk Factors:
- Age: Age has the biggest impact on breast cancer risk. As a woman’s age increases so too does her risk for acquiring breast cancer.
- Sex: American women, according to the most recent SEER Cancer Statistics Review, possess a 12.4% chance of acquiring breast cancer at some point during their lifetimes. Men, on the other hand, have a minimal risk for acquiring breast cancer during their lifetimes. A woman’s higher risk for this disease has been linked to the hormone, estrogen, which has been proven to stimulate breast cancer cell growth. Estrogen is more abundant in a woman’s body than it is in a man’s body, and it plays a vital role in the development of a woman’s breast tissue during puberty, in the maintenance of healthy menstruation, and in bone mass maintenance.
- Family History: The greater the number of relatives a woman possesses that suffered from breast cancer, the greater that woman’s risk is for developing breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. Unfortunately, both male and female relatives who suffered from breast cancer increase a woman’s risk for acquiring this disease. Thus, a relative’s sex is not a determining factor.
- Alcohol Consumption: A woman who consumes an excessive amount of alcohol per day possesses a greater risk for developing breast cancer. Alcohol consumption causes increased inflammation in the body. Since increased inflammation is correlated with cancer cell growth, it is possible that this could be the reason behind the correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and an increased breast cancer risk.
- Body Weight: Postmenopausal women who are either overweight or obese have a higher risk for developing breast cancer.
- Exercise: Women who engage in regular physical activity seem to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes. This could be related to the fact that women who engage in regular physical activity are more likely to maintain healthy body weights.
- Genetic Changes: About 10 percent of breast cancers in women are linked to inherited gene changes. Possessing these changes greatly increases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. Fortunately, there are tests that can verify if a woman possesses any of these gene changes. These tests allow women to pursue any necessary precautionary measures, which include early mastectomies.
- Breast Density: Women who possess dense breasts carry a greater risk for developing breast cancer. This is partially due to the fact that preventative mammograms are not as reliable in detecting cancerous tumors in dense breasts as they are in detecting cancerous tumors in breasts of lesser density.
- Exposure to Radiation: Women who have had any type of radiation therapy performed on their chest before the age of 30 possess an increased risk for acquiring breast cancer during their lifetimes.
- Menstrual History: Women who started menstruation before the age of 12, women who underwent menopause after the age of 55, and women who never experienced a full-term pregnancy possess a greater risk for developing breast cancer during their lifetimes.
- Breastfeeding History: Women who never breastfed their children have an increased risk for developing breast cancer during their lifetimes.
- Race: Overall, white women possess a greater chance of developing breast cancer during their lifetimes than African American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian women.
- Breast Cancer History: Women who have already suffered from breast cancer in their lifetimes have an increased risk of developing the disease again.