Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast Cancer Q & A of the Day: What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
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Risk factors are identifiable traits or habits that make some people more susceptible than others to a particular disease. Although we have identified some of the risk factors for breast cancer, we still don't fully understand what increases breast cancer risk. In fact, 70 percent of the women who develop breast cancer have no risk factors in their background.
Known Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Gender—Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than it is in men.
- Age—The older you are, the greater your chance of getting breast cancer. Most breast cancer—about 80 percent of all cases—occurs in women over 50.
- Race—White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than are African American women, but African American women are more likely to die of the disease. Asian, Latina, and Native American women have a lower risk than white women of developing breast cancer.
- Family history—About 30 percent of women who develop breast cancer have a family history of the disease.
- Reproductive factors—The younger a woman is when she gets her first period and the older she is when she goes into menopause, the more likely she is to get breast cancer.
- Pregnancy—Women who have never been pregnant are at higher risk than are women who have had a child before 30. However, women who have their first pregnancy after 30 are more at risk than those who have never been pregnant.
- Radiation exposure—Radiation is a known risk factor for cancer in general. Several major studies have confirmed the link between radiation and increased risk of breast cancer.
- Previous abnormal breast biopsy—If a biopsy indicates that a woman has atypical hyperplasia, she has about a four times greater risk of developing breast cancer. What does this mean? In a group of 100 women who did not have benign breast disease, 5 of them would be expected to go on to develop breast cancer. In a group of 100 women with atypical hyperplasia, 19 of them would be expected to develop breast cancer.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)—In the 1940s through the 1960s, doctors gave some pregnant women DES because it was thought to reduce the risk of miscarriage. These women have a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)—Long-term use (several years or more) of HRT slightly increases breast cancer risk.
- Alcohol—Studies indicate that drinking alcohol slightly increases risk.
- · Obesity—Studies indicate that being overweight increases breast cancer risk, especially for postmenopausal women. This is because fat tissue increases estrogen levels and high estrogen levels increase breast cancer risk.
- Physical activity—Recent studies indicate that exercise appears to reduce both breast cancer risk and the risk of a cancer recurrence.
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This post is courtesy of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, dedicated to eradicating breast cancer and improving the quality of women's health through innovative research, education and advocacy.To support this important cause and donate, visit www.dslrf.org.