Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors, As with most cancers, the actual causes are not known in breast cancer. However, some risk factors are known . The most important are:
- Situations with hormonal imbalance or hormone therapy
- High mammographic density
- Food composition, eg fat- rich diet
- alcohol consumption
- Overweight and type II diabetes
- Low physical activity
- Radiation of the chest in childhood (eg lymphoma)
Whether or not, how often and at what age women have children, has an influence on the development of breast cancer, as well as if and how long the children were breast-fed. The onset of menstruation and menopause, and thus the total number of menstrual bleeding, are also factors that influence the risk of disease.
Especially on the Internet, but sometimes also in newspapers and magazines, rumors are being made that breast cancer is also triggered by brains that are too tight, aluminum-containing deodorants, breast implants or even gestation abortions. However, these are “cancer myths” and these claims are without any scientific basis.
Female hormones (estrogen, progesterone)
The cells in the breast have so-called receptors, which can bind hormones (eg estrogens) per se. Thus, “messages” are transmitted through hormones to the cell. Among other things, the growth of the gland cells in the breast is stimulated during puberty or pregnancy. Unfortunately, oestrogens can also promote the development and multiplication of some cancer cells via these receptors. This is especially true for preparations for menopause (“hormone replacement therapy”).
A hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of breast cancer if it is administered for more than five years, especially for preparations containing both estrogen and gestagen. When the hormones are released, the risk falls back to the average level within a few years.
Smoking is the most important preventable risk factor for cancer, not only for lung cancer , but also for many other types of cancer, including breast cancer. Especially when girls start smoking in teenagers, their breast cancer risk rises significantly. The alarming increase in lung cancer among women should be a reason at any age, rather not to smoke.
Nutrition also plays a role in both quantity and composition: overweight people often get breast cancer as slim women, because hormones are formed in adipose tissue that increase estrogen levels. And the fat in the food also plays a role: Who eats a lot of animal fat (fat sausage and fat meat, milk products, butter, lard) also has a higher estrogen level and therefore a slightly higher risk. This explains, among other things, the much lower rate of breast cancer in Asian countries, where traditionally little animal fats are eaten. Due to the increasing adaptation to Western habits, however, the risk of breast cancer is now increasing in Asia.
Density of the mammary gland
Women with a high so-called mammographic density – ie with less fat and more glandular and connective tissue – have a five-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer. For comparison, women with a first-degree relative to breast cancer suffer an approximately two-fold increased risk.
The density of the breast can be determined by means of mammography images and is divided into four different densities depending on the ratio of the denser connective and glandular tissue to the less dense fatty tissue:
- Density degree I: fat-transparent, well-transparent,
- Density II: moderately transparent,
- Density density III: tight,
- Density IV: extremely dense.
The mammographic density is influenced by a variety of factors. For example, hormone replacement therapy can increase the density by the estrogen influence.
Hereditary breast cancer
About five to ten percent of all breast cancers are hereditary. When breast and ovarian cancer occur in a family, genetic counseling at a specialist hour for family breast and ovarian cancer can be made clear. If the suspicion of a hereditary strain is confirmed, a genetic test is to be considered. Triggers for hereditary breast cancer may be mutations in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes; But there are other “breast cancer genes”. Depending on the result of genetic testing and individual risk assessment, participation in a so-called intensified early detection of breast cancer can be offered in many cases.
Risk Check Breast Cancer
If you have answered at least two questions from checklist 1 or at least one question from checklist 2 with yes, you should take the early detection studies seriously. Talk to your doctor.
Risk Check 1
- Were you under the first menstrual period under 11 years?
- Were you older than 54 years in the last menstrual period?
- Are you childless?
- Did you get your first child with more than 30 years?
- Did you not breast-feed or only very briefly?
- Are you clearly overweight?
- Do you usually have little movement?
- Do you drink plenty of alcohol (regularly more than a small glass of beer or wine per day)?
- Have you taken hormones for menopause for at least five years?
Risk Check 2
- Have or have you had breast cancer?
- Have you been diagnosed with ovarian, uterine, or colorectal cancer during the past five years?
- Do you have a marked mastopathy (changes of the breast glands with nodes and cysts)?
- Have you ever taken a tissue sample from the breast because of an unclear finding?
- Does more than one relative (grandma, mother, daughter, sister) have breast cancer and / or ovarian cancer?
A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.
Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:
- Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.
- Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.
- A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer is increased. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. 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 breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
- Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
- Obesity. Being obese increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Having never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do 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 breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications.
- Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.