Risk factors for Breast Cancer

Risk Factors which can be Changed

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While some risk factors for breast cancer cannot be changed, some risk factors can be controlled and lowered. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, cutting down on smoking and alcohol are important factors in decreasing the risk for breast cancer. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, most women can make sure that the risk is as low as possible.

  • Previous Childbirth: Women who have naver been pregnant or have had no children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk. Women who have a number of children have a reduced risk, possibly because of a lesser number of menstrual cycles in the reproductive life and thus lower exposure to estrogen.

  • Not Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it is continued for a year or more. This is possibly because breastfeeding reduces a woman's total number of lifetime menstrual cycles.

  • Recent Oral Contraceptive Use: Women who are on oral contraceptive pills have a slightly higher risk of getting breast cancer. But the risk returns to that of the normal population 10 years after stopping the pills.

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Women who are on Hormone Replacement therapy after menopause also have a higher risk of breast cancer, possibly by increasing the exposure of the breasts to estrogen for a longer time . But in this case too, the risk comes back to that of the normal population within 5 years of stopping the Women who are on Hormone Replacement therapy .

    Risk factors for breast cancer which can be prevented

  • Diet: Women who take a diet rich in fats and oils have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than women who do not. But women who take oils like olive oil and canola oil have a lesser risk as compared to women who take polyunsaturated fats like corn oils, margarine and saturated fats present in meat. Fruits and vegetables in the diet can provide antioxidants to the body which can decrease genetic mutations. So, taking less fruits and vegetables can increase the risks of breast cancer. It is suggested that:

    • Body weight should be kept in a healthy range for your height and frame. Body mass index can help estimate the healthy weight for height.
    • More than 5 cups of vegetables and fruit should be eaten daily
    • Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 10% of the total calories per day. Fat intake should be limited to about 30 grams per day.
    • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids should be eaten.
    • Trans fats, processed meats, and charred or smoked foods should be avoided.

  • Alcohol: Taking alcohol in excess increases the risk of many types of cancers, including breast cancers. A woman who consumed alcohol had a 30% higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to women who did not drink. The American Cancer Society recommends that women limit their consumption of alcohol to no more than one drink per day. Women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a small (about 7% to 10%) increase in risk compared with non-drinkers, while women who have 2 to 3 drinks a day have about a 20% higher risk than non-drinkers.

  • Weight: Women who are overweight and especially women who gain weight after menopause seem to be at a higher risk of getting breast cancer. This is because peripheral fat produces estrogens and the organs are exposed to a longer duration of estrogens than others. But women who are overweight since childhood are at a lesser risk than women who gain weight after menopause. Women who gain weight after menopause have an increased risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

  • Sedentary Lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, even when the woman is not very overwieght can increase the risks of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends engaging in 45-60 minutes of physical exercise 5 or more days a week.

    Do women with risk factors always develop breast cancer? Statistics show that 60-70% of people with breast cancer have no connection to these risk factors at all, and other people with risk factors will never develop cancer.

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