Breast cancer can occur due to different factors, some of which are preventable such as being overweight, taking hormones alcohol, and being physically inactive. Other risk factors cannot be changed. However, having a risk factor doesn’t mean you must get breast cancer. Knowing the risk factors opens up a channel for discussion with your doctor on the preventive measures to lower the risk.
Being a female
Although men get breast cancer as well, it is rare. The disease is more dominant in women than men, and it is one of the leading causes of death among women. That is why women should undergo regular Hong Kong breast cancer screening. When detected early, breast cancer is treatable.
Another risk factor of breast cancer you cannot change is getting older. Breast cancer is common in women over 50years, and the risk increases as you age, so regular screening is essential.
A personal history of breast cancer
If you have cancer on one breast, you are at a higher risk of developing new breast cancer in the other breast or a different part of the affected breast. However, you must note that this is different from breast cancer recurrence. A recurrent case of breast cancer is cancer that keeps on coming back in the same area even after treatment.
Also, some noncancerous breast diseases such as lobular carcinoma in situ and atypical hyperplasia increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Regular Hong Kong breast cancer screening is advisable if you have an individual history of breast cancer.
A family history of breast cancer
Although most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of breast cancer, the risk is higher in women who have close relatives with breast cancer, for instance, a parent, sibling, or child with breast cancer. Your risk is twofold if you have a first-degree relative, mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer, and having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases the risk by about triple-fold.
Having dense breast tissues
Dense breast tissue is also associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Typically, breasts have fatty tissues, glandular tissues, and fibrous tissues. When your breasts have more connective tissue (fibrous and glandular tissues) and less fatty tissue, they appear dense on a mammogram.
Factors that can affect breast tissue density include genetics, age, menopausal status, pregnancy, and the use of some drugs such as menopausal hormone therapy. Dense breast tissue also makes it challenging to see breast cancers on a mammogram.
Starting menstrual periods early (before age 12) slightly increases the risk of breast cancer. According to studies, it results from a more prolonged lifetime exposure to progesterone and estrogen hormones.
Another reproductive factor that slightly increases the risk for breast cancer is going through menopause later (after age 55). The high risk is because the woman had more prolonged exposure to progesterone and estrogen hormones.
Exposure to chest radiations
Being exposed to radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 increases the risk of breast cancer. For instance, some women are treated with radiation therapy to address other conditions like Hodgkin or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The risks severity depends on your age when you got the radiation.
Generally, the risk is higher in women exposed to chest radiation as teens or young adults or when the breast was still in the development stage. However, radiation treatment in older women above age 40 has not been found to increase breast cancer risks.
Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
In the 1940s-1970s, the diethylstilbestrol (DES) drug was prescribed to some pregnant women to lower the chances of a miscarriage. These women have a slightly raised risk of breast cancer. Also, women whose mothers took the drug while pregnant with them have an increased risk of breast cancer.
Race and ethnicity
According to studies, white women are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer than black women. But thanks to breast cancer initiatives such as the Hong Kong cancer fund and awareness, the gap has been closing. Breast cancer is also more dominant in black women under the age of 40, and they are more liable to die from the cancer at any age. Overall, Native American women, Asians, Hispanic women have a lower risk of breast cancer. Moreover, black women are more likely to suffer triple-negative breast cancer, a rare type of cancer.
A history of some benign breast conditions
Being diagnosed with certain breast conditions increases your risk of getting breast cancer. Benign breast conditions are categorized into different groups:
- Non-proliferative lesions, including duct ectasia, mild hyperplasia, a single papilloma, adenosis, fat necrosis, etc., increase the risk slightly.
- Proliferative lesions without cell abnormalities or atypia manifest in excessive cell growth in the ducts or lobules of the breast. They include a radial scar, fibroadenoma, ductal hyperplasia without atypia, sclerosing adenosis, etc. They also increase the risk slightly.
- Proliferative lesions with atypia- these also manifest in excessive cell growth on the breast ducts or lobules, but some do not look normal. They include atypical ductal hyperplasia and atypical lobular hyperplasia and increase the risk of breast cancer 4-5times.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ- women with this condition are 7-12times more likely to get breast cancer.
Inherited genetic mutations, including BRCA1 and BRCA2, increase the risk of getting breast cancer. Usually, these genes make proteins used to repair damaged DNA. But their mutated versions can grow out of control leading to breast cancer.
Genetic testing and counseling are essential for women diagnosed with breast cancer due to the genetic risk factor. However, not every woman needs the test, and the doctor should consider the pros and cons beforehand.
If you have a genetic mutation that boosts your risk of getting breast cancer or a strong family history of breast cancer, discussing your options with your doctor is advisable. The doctor may prescribe surgery or medicines that reduce your estrogen levels to lower your risk of getting breast cancer. Also, conducting breast cancer self-checks and regular breast cancer screening is necessary.