Breast cancer is a type of cancer which has yet to be attributed to a precise cause. Although researchers have not narrowed down an exact root for the disease, various risk factors have been associated with it, including an individual with genetic disposition, one who has increased hormonal influence on their body and one who suffers or may have suffered from other health issues, such as other types of cancer or obesity. The primary risk; however, is gender. Women are about 100 times more likely than men to develop the disease.
Cause and Risk Factors
There are different types of breast cancer, and although there are no symptoms of the disease, common signs can include a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer, depending on its stage, can be curable and treatment is offered in different forms.
Genetic disposition: Some people may have a familial background that includes single multiple occurrences of breast cancer within the immediate family. These people are at a higher risk of developing the disease; in fact, a woman whose mother, daughter or sister has had breast cancer may be 2 to 3 times more likely to develop it as well. Researchers have also explored the presence of genes that may be linked to a familial history of breast cancer, especially, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women with these genes (about 1 in 200) have a higher chance of developing breast cancer.
Hormonal influence: As research continues, the connection between breast cancer and hormones has become more evident. Greater exposure to estrogen, as thought by researchers, makes a woman more likely to develop breast cancer. Estrogen causes cells to divide, and by doing so, increases the chances of a mutated cell that could potentially lead to cancer.
A woman’s menstrual cycle has a large influence on her hormone levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone. The age at which a woman begins and ends her menstrual cycle, the duration of her cycle each month and the age at which she first gives childbirth, all play a role in a woman’s exposure to estrogen and progesterone. The risk for breast cancer is increased if a woman’s cycle starts before age 12 and ends after age 55, if it is shorter or longer than the average cycle (26-29 days) or if she has her first child after the age of 30.
There has been some contrasting data as to whether or not use of birth control pills is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. Some studies find that there is no correlation between use of birth control pills while others suggest otherwise.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is also a matter with results that are yet to be determined. One study has found (HRT) to increase the risk of breast cancer by about 5-6%. However, this particular risk depends on other factors that such as the specific type of therapy and medical history.
Obesity: Obese women who are at the post-menopausal stage of life and who do not use hormone treatments are more likely to develop breast cancer, as obesity can change estrogen levels in the body. On the contrary, obese women in the premenopausal stage are less likely than women of a healthy weight to have breast cancer. Obese women who are at the point of post menopause are more likely to discover the cancer at a later stage, contributing to the larger rate of breast cancer fatality rates in overweight obese women.
Other factors such as race, eating and drinking habits may also contribute to the risk of breast cancer. White women are slightly more susceptible to the disease, while black women are more likely to die from breast cancer. Some studies show that high-fat diets from red meat and dairy products and regular alcohol consumption (2-3 drinks per day) are risk factors. Women with a history of benign breast lumps, other cancers and illnesses may also be at a higher risk, specifically endometrial, ovarian, or colon cancer.
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