Breast Cancer Prevention: Risk Factors

Breast Self Exam. National Cancer Institute

Is breast cancer prevention possible? It seems everyone you meet either has or knows someone who has had breast cancer. What do you need to know?

Why You Need To Know About Breast Cancer Prevention

In 2015, an estimated 234,190 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in America. Of those diagnosed, 40,730 will die from this disease. Although some of the factors that contribute to the development of breast cancer are known, there is no guaranteed way to prevent it.

Yet by educating yourself and taking control of some lifestyle factors, you can lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

Understanding Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Your risk of developing breast cancer is calculated by looking at several factors, some of which you are born with, and some of which you can choose. Knowing your health background will help you and your doctor make good choices about lifestyle and health care, which can lower your risk of breast cancer. You can try online risk assessment tools, but don’t use these as a substitute for talking with your doctor.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors in Detail:

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

  • Gender - Women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men, but keep in ind that men do develop breast cancer.
  • Genes - A genetic predisposition is felt to be responsible for 5 to 10% of breast cancers.
  • Race - Whites are more likely to develop breast cancer than other races.
  • Age - The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
  • Drugs and treatments - Some medications may increase and others decrease risk.
  • Menses onset and age of menopause- An early age of menarche (first period) or late menopause increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Medical radiation to the chest - Radiation therapy to the chest, for example for Hodgkin's disease, increases the risk of breast cancer, especially radiation at a young age.
  • Dense breasts - Women with dense breasts are more likely to develop the disease than women without dense breasts.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Whether you are at low or high risk, you have many options to lower your risk. When it’s found at an early stage, breast cancer can effectively be treated, and there are several ways to help prevent recurrence. Take responsibility for your breast health.

Protect Your Breast Health

  • Self breast exams - Doing regular self breast exams.
  • Be familiar with your cyclical changes.
  • Become familiar with common breast lumps such as breast cysts, fibroadenomas, pseudolumps, and breast hematomas. But do not dismiss ANY change.

Breast Cancer Risk Myths

There are any number of myths about the causes of breast cancer that have been passed around in recent years. We are hearing that things like grapefruit may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Here are 10 common questions about breast cancer with what we know at this time.

Ongoing Research – the Future of Breast Cancer Prevention

Will breast cancer ever be preventable? Researchers hope so, and the National Cancer Institute says that clinical trials for high-risk women have been done.

Chemoprevention - Since estrogen fuels 80% of all breast cancers, the trials have focused on drugs that affect estrogen levels. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as Tamoxifen and Raloxifene have been tested and appear to help prevent the development of breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors, such as Aromasin, help prevent estrogen production and are being evaluated for their ability to prevent breast cancer.

Genetic Predisposition - Genetic tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 are now available to help women determine the degree of risk they may face. In very high-risk patients, preventive mastectomy may be considered, as well as oophorectomy (removal of ovaries to lower estrogen levels). If you have a family history of breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the options that would lower your risk.

Sources

National Cancer Institute. Breast Cancer Prevention. Updated 10/22/15. http://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-prevention-pdq#section/_12

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2015. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf

National Cancer Institute. PDQ Cancer Information Summaries (Internet). Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ) Health Professional Version. Published online 12/16/15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65884/#CDR0000062779__29

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