Breast Cancer: The Risk Factors

by Michael Russell - Date: 2007-01-14 - Word Count: 505 Share This!

Breast cancer is very hard to detect in its early stages. Breast self-exams and regular clinical breast exams are still our best weapons against this type of disease. We can gain a better understanding of breast cancer if we just take the time to study its causes and find out what are the factors that increase our chances of getting it. Read on for more useful information about breast cancer, which affects the lives of thousands of women each year.

. Gender - you are more at risk if you are a woman - especially if you've already had cancer in one breast. Women have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. Although cases of breast cancer in men have steadily increased over the years, they only make up 1% of all breast cancer cases.

. Family history - if you're mother, sister, or another female member of your family has had breast cancer, this also increases your risk. Research has shown that hereditary cases of breast cancer are due to mutations of genes identified as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Further studies however, are still underway regarding these developments. Have yourself evaluated if one or some female members of your family have a history with breast cancer.

. Age - women are more vulnerable to breast cancer as they get older. 77% of women with breast cancer are over the age of 50, women below 30 only make up 0.3%. (American Cancer Society). It is advised that women as young as 20 years old should have a clinical breast exam every three years and should do so once every year after hitting age 40.

. Other risk factors for women - several other factors have to do with female hormones. According to studies, long-term hormone replacement therapy can increase your risk. It is also advised that women should have children before age 30 (starting to breastfeed at a younger age reportedly helps reduce your chances of getting breast cancer). Excessive alcohol intake and being overweight are also linked to an increased risk. Women who have experienced menstruation early (before age 12) and those who experience menopause later than the expected age also have the higher probability of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Tamoxifen is a drug prescribed for women who are already at high risk. This reduces the risk of cancer by 50% if taken for five years. Some side effects may be experienced (hot flashes and vaginal discharge), although they are not serious. In rare cases however, life - threatening side effects (stroke, blood clots, uterine cancer) may occur. For this reason, Tamoxifen is not widely used.

There are several risk factors to consider when it comes to breast cancer. And even if you think you have very few of the characteristics that could put you at risk, don't take things for granted. You should still give careful attention to your health. Have yourself examined by your physician regularly, adopt a healthy lifestyle and be sensitive to the changes in your body. Taking preventive measures is still your best defense against serious illnesses.

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