Breast Cancer (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What Are Breast Cancer Causes and Risk Factors?
Many women who develop breast cancer have no risk factors other than age and gender.
Genetic Causes of Breast Cancer
Family history has long been known to be a risk factor for breast cancer. Both maternal and paternal relatives are important. The risk is highest if the affected relative developed breast cancer at a young age, had cancer in both breasts, or if she is a close relative. First-degree relatives (mother, sister, daughter) are most important in estimating risk. Several second-degree relatives (grandmother, aunt) with breast cancer may also increase risk. Breast cancer in a male increases the risk for all his close female relatives. Having relatives with both breast and ovarian cancer also increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
There is great interest in genes linked to breast cancer. About 5%-10% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, as a result of mutations, or changes, in certain genes that are passed along in families.
Hormonal Causes of Breast Cancer
Hormonal influences play a role in the development of breast cancer.
Lifestyle and Dietary Causes of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer seems to occur more frequently in countries with high dietary intake of fat, and being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women.
The use of alcohol is also an established risk factor for the development of breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Women who consume two to five alcoholic beverages per day have a risk about one and a half times that of nondrinkers for the development of breast cancer. Consumption of one alcoholic drink per day results in a slightly elevated risk.
Studies are also showing that regular exercise may reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Studies have not definitively established how much activity is needed for a significant reduction in risk. One study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) showed that as little as one and a quarter to two and a half hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman's breast cancer risk by 18%.
Benign Breast Disease
Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer
Radiation treatment increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer but only after a long delay. For example, women who received radiation therapy to the upper body for treatment of Hodgkin's disease before 30 years of age have a significantly higher rate of breast cancer than the general population.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2016
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