What Are The Causes & Risk Factors For Breast Cancer?

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So, after breast cancer 101 i.e. what is breast cancer, it’s symptoms and the various types and stages; it’s time to uncover the causes and risk factors.

You know how people say don’t indulge in unhealthy things, maintain a healthy lifestyle and so on? Especially in today’s world where we’ve made technological advancements in leaps and bounds but have also contributed towards ever increasing pollution in the air, water and soil of our ecosystem. The number of cases of different kinds of cancer have grown rapidly in the past 50 years. And honestly? It is incredibly important to maintain our health and that of our surroundings.

In recent years researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that can increase one’s chances and risk of breast cancer. But, it is still not  clear as to why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people who do have risk factors never do.

It is believed and quite possibly true that breast cancer or any cancer is caused by a complex interaction between one’s genetic makeup and their environment.

What do we mean by genetic make up? Can Breast cancer be Inherited?

While the precise causes of breast cancer are still unclear, there are certain aspects that pose as the main risk factors. Of which being a woman, being old and having a history of breast cancer in the family are at the top.

If one already has a family history of cancer, it is an indicator or rather risk factor when it comes to evaluating that person’s chances of developing breast cancer as well. In fact, doctors have estimated that about 5-10 % of breast cancer cases are linked to the respective individual’s gene mutations that have been passed through different generations of that individual’s family.

In fact the risk goes up for women with certain types of benign breast lumps and for women who have had ovarian cancer. And if someone has had breast cancer in the past, then they can get it again.

Did you know that In the 1940s, the lifetime risk of a woman developing breast cancer was 5%? In recent years that risk has grown to about 12%! More importantly, in almost half of the breast cancer cases, the woman affected has no known risk factors or markers of breast cancer. Which is why it is incredibly important to know everything there is to know about this illness, because it is always better to know than to not.

So, what are these risk factors?

Being A Woman

While men can also get breast cancer, being a woman is the number one marker for breast cancer. In fact, women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men.

Having A History Of Breast Cancer

If you have been previously diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer like Ductal Carcinoma, DCIS in one breast, then your chances of developing a new breast cancer are 3-4 times more strong. The kicker? The new breast cancer may or may not be similar to the one you’ve had previously and could be a whole other type and it could happen in the same breast as the previous cancer or in the other breast that was unaffected.

Having A Personal History Of Breast Conditions

If an individual has a previous history of breast conditions like a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), an uncommon condition in which abnormal cells form in the milk glands (lobules) in the breast or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, a precancerous condition that affects cells in the breast, then that individual has an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Both of the above mentioned conditions are not cancers, they are the markers of developing cancer later in life.

Your Age

The risk of developing breast cancer as you grow older. Did you know that about 4% of the cases of breast cancer affect those in their  20’s, 16% in their 30’s and  28% of those who are in their 40’s? Meaning that almost  48% of breast cancer patients are below 50 years of age. The likelihood gets stronger as you into your 50’s and 60s. Women in the bracket of the ages of 40 to 50, have a 1 in 68 chance of developing breast cancer. From 50 to 60, that goes up to 1 in 42. From 60 to 70, it’s one in 28. And in women 70 and older, it’s 1 in 26.

Having Direct Family History

Having a mother, sister, or daughter i.e. a first-degree relative with breast cancer puts a woman at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The likelihood is even stronger if the relative developed breast cancer before the age of 50 and had cancer in both their breasts. HAving a female first degree relative with breast cancer can basically double one’s risk of developing breast cancer. But having a male blood relative who has or had breast cancer can also increase one’s risk.

Inherited Genes

Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most well-known gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of developing breast cancer as well as other cancers. But it is not an actual fact or surety that one will develop cancer.

Radiation Exposure

If you’ve been exposed to radiation or received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of developing breast cancer increases.

Obesity

Being obese can increase your risk and chances of developing breast cancer.

Reproductive Markers

Women who begin their periods before the age of 12 years have an increased risk of breast cancer. Women who begin menopause at an older age or having your first child at an older age have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, women who give birth to their first child after the age of 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer. Women who’ve never been pregnant also have a greater risk of breast cancer than those women who have had one or more pregnancies.

Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy

Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of developing breast cancer. But the risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications. Drinking alcohol in excess also increases the risk of developing breast cancer.

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