What are the Breast cancer causes and risk factors?

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease that arises when cells in one or both breasts grow uncontrollably. As these cells divide more rapidly than they should, they can accumulate into a tumor. At stage 0, i.e., the beginning of breast cancer, the disease is symptomless but gradually invades breast tissue, lymph nodes, and other organs.

When breast cancer is diagnosed early, treatment like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy can help reduce the fatal risks. The blog talks about what are the causes of breast cancer that you should be aware of.

What are the causes of breast cancer?

Till today extensive studies are going on to fully understand the causes of breast cancer. Research has shown that certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. It’s assumed that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of genetic makeup and environment.

  •   Genetics: Genes influence how cells work. The proto-oncogenes contained by normal cells regulate cell growth and genes called tumor-suppressor genes, determine how often cells divide. If there is a mutation in proto-oncogenes or tumor-suppressor genes, cells can become cancerous.
  •   Mutation in BRCA tumor suppressor genes can be inherited.

Although 90% of breast cancer are thought to arise from unidentified acquired gene changes that happen after birth like:

  •   Exposure to radiation.
  •   Interaction with cancer-causing chemicals.
  •   Random cellular changes.

Breast cancer risk factors you can’t control:

The main factors that influence your risk include aging, hormones and further to discuss. Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. 

  • The risk for breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
  • Genetic mutations: Women who have inherited changes (mutations) to certain genes, such as BRACA1 and BRACA2 are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive history: Starting menstrual periods before age 12 and starting menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, raising their risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Having dense breasts: Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue, and thus are more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or certain non-cancerous breast diseases: Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time.
  • Family history of breast or ovarian cancer: A woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother’s or father’s side of the family who has had breast or ovarian cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman’s risk.
  •   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. By stopping the intake of these medications risks can be reduced.
  •   Diethylstilbesterol (DES): Patients who took DES, which was a drug given during pregnancy between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, or people whose mothers took it while pregnant with them have a higher breast cancer risk.

Risk factors that can be controlled or change

  •   Being overweight or obese after menopause: Being overweight can be a prominent key player in breast cancer, especially after menopause. As ovaries stop making the female sex hormone estrogen after menopause, so most estrogen comes from fat tissue. The more fat you have, the more estrogen you make, and estrogen feeds some breast cancers, causing them to grow. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the chances of having cancer.
  •   Sedentary lifestyle: Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  •   Drinking alcohol and smoking: Studies show that a woman’s risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks or even with the habit of smoking.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, moderating alcohol consumption, and if possible, breastfeeding your children, are some ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Having risk factors does not mean that breast cancer will develop. Some people with several risk factors never develop breast cancer, while others with no known risk factors get the disease.

Take Away!

If you want to learn more about “what are the causes of breast cancer”, book an appointment with Dr. Amit Gandhi. He has treated more than thousands of patients. His treatment plans and even consultation sessions are patient-oriented. Visit him today!

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