Breast Cancer: The Risk Factors

Breast Cancer: The Risk Factors

A diagnosis of cancer sends shivers to people. In fact, the word itself – cancer – is frightening and has led to cancer phobia. The fear of cancer in patients is more harmful and causes more suffering than the disease itself.

To be a woman is a dominant risk factor associated with breast cancer!  Every woman must, therefore, be aware of risk factors that can be changed to lower the likelihood of developing breast cancer.  Risk factors such as smoking cigarettes, being overweight, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet can be altered through a lifestyle change to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Does this then exclude men being at a risk of breast cancer? Men too are a risk of breast cancer, but women are more predominant and have a higher risk than men.

Choosing a healthier lifestyle is a sure way of minimizing the risk of developing breast Cancer. However, certain risk factors cannot be changed and only certain protective measures can be taken to minimize these risks.

How to Minimize Risk Factors that Cannot be Altered
  1. Sex

The anatomy differences in a man and woman are obvious! As puberty kicks in girls, their breasts take about 3-4 years to fully develop and are typically sensitive to hormonal changes until the first pregnancy. On the other hand, the glands in men’s breasts do not develop and remain quite inactive for the rest of a man’s life.

Changing sex is not a realistic possibility and the only step that a woman can take is to maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking or never smoke at all, eat a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly.

  1. Genetic makeup

There are hereditary genes that are thought to be passed down from a parent to a child that pose as a risk factor for breast cancer. Genes are segments of DNA that contain instructions that make up the body.

These “instructions” can sometimes contain “errors” that can lead to faulty cell malfunction. If such kind of an error occurs, the same error is likely to appear in all the other cells that will be formed thereafter. Inherited breast cancer is linked with BReast CAncer gene one and BReast CAncer gene two. If these genes deform and mutate, the risk of breast and ovarian cancer increases.

The likelihood of developing breast cancer if any of your blood relatives have been diagnosed before the age of 50 is high. However, this doesn’t mean that all family members are at a risk of developing breast cancer, no! Only about 1 in 8 of the family members is at a risk.

Ironically, some people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer gene.

The preventive measure that should be taken against genetic risk factor is having frequent screening – once or twice a year if the risk is higher. A breast ultrasound helps in early detection of breast cancer. Further to this, an irreversible risk reduction protective surgery can be performed for women whose genes are abnormal and pose an extremely high risk of breast cancer. This means the whole breast(s) is removed minimizing the risk by 97%.

Taking hormonal therapy medicines will never reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Also read Healthy Tips for Parents of Obese Teens

  1. Age

The aging process is considered a major risk of developing breast cancer. Everyone is growing older and the longer we live, the higher the possibilities of genetic mutation as the body becomes less capable of repairing mutations related to genetic malformations.

We can’t stop the aging process. Therefore, the choices we make to change our lifestyle will lower the risk of breast cancer. Taking into account what we are eating, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting the amount of alcohol intake as well as quitting smoking will lower the risks associated with this disease.

  1. Race and Breast Cancer

African American women who are below the age of 45 have a higher tendency to develop more aggressive and advanced breast cancer than white women. Lifestyle patterns in this case such as weight play a part in contributing high risk of breast cancer.

While changing one’s race is impossible, viable solutions can be worked out such as access to early detection and adjusting your lifestyle will significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer.

  1. Menstrual History

Early onset of menstruation before the age of 12 and late menopause after the age of 55 is a great risk in the development of breast cancer. Girls who develop their breasts earlier than their menstrual periods are exposed to hormone disruptors that are in chemical products that can lead to breast cancer.

Women who are exposed longer to hormones after the age of 55 have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Whereas no woman can influence the time to start or stop menstruation period, better lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the chances of breast cancer. Encouraging children and pre-teens to engage in physical activities will help them exercise while they enjoy playing.

Now, these are the five major risk factors that cannot be altered and expose women to breast cancer. Studies have also shown that men who have benign breast enlargement – a condition known as gynecomastia are at a risk of breast cancer. Though this is less common and only occurs in 1 out of 1000 men.

Obesity in puberty can trigger a higher production of estrogen that can tick off testosterone balance leading to breast enlargement. Aging in men coupled with weight issues also leads to gynaecomastia increasing the risk of breast cancer.

If recent, gynecomastia can be treated through anti-estrogen medications or through surgical removal of infected breast tissue.

In conclusion, while established risks such as the age, race, genes, sex and menstrual history are major risk factors for breast cancer, other emerging risk factors such as deficiency in vitamin D, exposure to diethylstilbestrol, chemicals in food, cosmetics and plastics among others are now being accepted as factors that contribute to the development of breast cancer.

This post was written by John Parker who is the founder of The Manly Zone, a site that covers all health related topics that affect men. He has been in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years and has been blogging for the past 3 years.


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