Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer develops from a malignant tumor that has formed in the cells of breast tissue.

Abnormal cell development usually begins in the lobules (glands that produce breast milk), or the milk ducts (passages where the milk flows from the lobules to the nipples).

In rare cases, breast cancer can begin in the fatty or fibrous tissues of the breast, such as the stromal tissues. There are several risk factors of breast cancer.

Cancer risk factors include anything that increases your chances of developing breast cancer.

Most factors are things you can't control, like family history, medical history and age. However, factors such as physical activity, weight, diet and alcohol use, are in your control.

Keeping yourself in shape can reduce your chance of developing breast cancer

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer You Can Control

Physical activity – Increase your level of physical activity. Lack of physical activity can cause all types of health problems, including cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends that you get about one hour of exercise at least five times a week to reduce the risk factors of breast cancer.

Weight – Excess weight has also been associated with a variety of diseases and health problems. Overweight women, especially after menopause, are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

This is because the ovaries have stopped producing estrogen, so the body gets the estrogen it needs from fat tissue. The more fat tissue you have, the more estrogen will be produced. Although higher estrogen levels reduce the risk of some cancers, it increases the risk for breast cancer.

Diet – What you eat directly affects your health. When you don't get enough of the vitamins your body needs, you increase the risk of developing abnormal cells. Researchers haven't yet pin-pointed which foods increase the risk of cancer, but do recommend reducing your intake of animal fats.

Animal products may contain growth factors, pesticides, antibiotics and even hormones that can have adverse affects on your body's hormone production. A low-fat diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is highly recommended.  

Alcohol use – Having more than one alcoholic drink per day has been shown to increase your risk of developing breast cancer. What type of alcohol doesn't make difference.

Smoking – There is no evidence that links smoking with breast cancer. But it couldn't hurt to quit...

Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can't Control

Gender – In rare cases, men can develop breast cancer, but being a woman greatly increases the risk. The cells in your breasts are changing and growing all the time, increasing the risk of an abnormal growth developing.

Age – Years of wear and tear on your body makes you susceptible to a variety of diseases. Since overexposure to certain substances can put you at risk for developing these diseases, the longer you live, the more time these diseases have to grow and spread throughout your body.

Family history – Many cancers are hereditary. If someone in your family was diagnosed with breast cancer, you are at greater risk of developing the disease, as well.

Previous diagnosis – If you have had breast cancer before, you are at great risk of it coming back in the same breast, or developing in the other breast.

Race – Breast cancer is more common in Caucasian women than it is in women of other races. Caucasian women are also more likely to die of the disease. 

Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy to your chest, as a child or young adult, can significantly increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Studies show that the risk is the highest if the treatment was administered during the teen years, while the breasts were still developing.

Over-exposure to estrogen – Estrogen stimulates the growth of breast cells. Birth control pills or menopause therapy medications you take with estrogen are within your control. But, there are other factors that increase estrogen production that you can't control.

Over-exposure to estrogen over an extended period of time can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

Estrogen producing factors you can't control include:

  • early onset of puberty and your menstrual cycle – before the age of 12
  • late onset of menopause and the end of your menstrual cycle – after the age of 55
  • environmental exposure – hormones in animal products you eat or pesticides such as DDT, which produce substances in the body similar to estrogen
Early puberty has been linked to increased rates of breast cancer. Obesity has been linked to early puberty

Pregnancy throws your hormones for a loop, but it also reduces your risk of developing breast cancer. Giving your body a break from menstrual cycles has been proven to be very beneficial, in many ways.

In fact, some gynecologists (especially female gynecologists) strongly recommend reducing the number of menstrual cycles a woman has in her lifetime, and have found ways of making this happen.

Studies show that women who haven't carried to term, or who didn't have a full-term pregnancy until after the age of 30, were at a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Breastfeeding has also been proven to reduce risk factors of breast cancer, and the longer, the better. Although most women don't like to breastfeed for more than six months, experts recommend one and half to two years.

Educate Yourself, and Fear Not

Even though there are many risk factors of breast cancer you cannot control, you should do everything you can to control that factors that are within your power.

Your chances of avoiding breast cancer are best if you live well, and never ignore a warning sign if you find one.

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