Risk factors that cause breast cancer are not a guarantee that you will get the disease, but it will increase your chance. Many women have breast cancer with no apparent risk factors, and even when a woman develops breast cancer, it is hard to pinpoint specific factors that contributed to the development of the disease.
While risk factors like race, age, gender, and genetic predisposition cannot be changed, other factors like smoking, diet, and drinking can contribute to the development of breast cancer as well as other lifestyle and aging factors. While your doctor may not discuss all the breast cancer risks with you, it is your responsibility to take charge of your health and be aware of them.
Inherent Risk Factors
Breast cancer is 100 percent more common in women because men lack estrogen and progesterone, women secrete hormones that promote cancer cell growth. One out of eight invasive breast cancers is found in women age 45 and two out of three are found in women over 55 years old.
Medical theories revealed that five to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common genetic mutation breast cancer. The chances of getting BC are about 80 percent higher when you inherit either mutated gene. It also increases the chances of getting ovarian cancer. BRCA1 is more prevalent in the Jewish community that any other ethnic groups.
The other mutations in the genes that can lead to BC are ATM, TP53, CHEK2, PTEN, CDH1, and STK1, although these mutations do not increase the risk as much as BRCA. In order to determine if you carry any of these mutations, a genetic testing is the most effective in finding them.
Breast Cancer Lineage
Your chances of getting breast cancer are greater if you have a first degree family member with the disease. The exact risk is still a mystery but statistics indicate that if you have one first-degree relatives with breast cancer, it doubles your chance of getting the disease and three-fold if you have two first-degree relatives.
Personal history, race, and dense breast issues are also breast cancer risks you should be aware of. A woman who has cancer in one breast has three to four-fold increased risk of developing the disease in another breast. Overall, statistics show that white women are more likely to develop the disease than African-American women but African-American women are more likely to die from this disease. Native American, Hispanic, and Asian has lower risk of developing and dying from the disease.
Benign Breast Conditions
Women who have benign breast conditions may be at risk of having BC. These conditions are divided into three groups and are closely linked with breast cancer risk.
Proliferative lesions without atypia are conditions that show excessive growth of cells in the ducts of breast tissues. These include ductal hyperplasia, Fibroadenoma, sclerosing adenosis, several papillomas, and radial scar.
The proliferative lesions with atypia are conditions that can increase the risk of breast cancer, including atypical ductal hyperplasia and atypical lobular hyperplasia. Other benign risks also include lobular in situ, menstrual periods, and previous chest radiation, and diethylstilbestrol exposure.
Non proliferative lesions are not linked to overgrowth of breast tissues and affect the cancer risk, and even if they do, are of very little consequence. These include:
• Mild hyperplasia, simple cysts, Adenosis
• Ductal ectasia, Phyllodes tumor, single papilloma
• Fat necrosis, Squamous and apocrine metaplasia
• Epithelial calcification, Mastitis, and benign tumors.
Lifestyle-related Breast Cancer Risks You should be aware of.
Having children lessens the risk of having breast cancer because of the reduction of the total number of menstrual cycles. Birth control pills and injectable drug like DMPA given every three months may help increase the risk of having BC than those who did not use them. Study shows that once these contraceptives are stopped, the risk abates within five to 10 years.
The use of combined hormone therapy may also increase the risk of breast cancer. The excessive use of alcohol has a direct link to developing breast cancer and other types of cancer when compared to non-drinkers. Those who have two to five drinks every day have 1 ½ times higher risk than those who don’t drink. Alcohol increases the risk of developing other types of cancer as well.
Similarly, being overweight or obese can bolster the risks too. Before becoming menopausal, the fat tissue produces fewer estrogens, and the ovaries produce more. After menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, and now the estrogen comes from the fat tissues. Fatter tissues can cause the estrogen levels to increase and higher insulin level, which is linked to breast cancer development.
Controversial Risk Factors
Studies found that there is no link between diet and vitamin intake to the breast cancer development. Although, high-fat consumption that leads to obesity can help proliferate the risks, including heart disease. Other supposed risks include the use of antiperspirants, bras, night work, breast implants, chemicals in the environment, tobacco smoke, and even induced abortion.
However, there are more focused studies underway to find out if these controversial risk factors have links to breast cancer development risks. The study of these factors has suggestive but insufficient evidence at this time.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas