Certain changes in DNA can cause normal breast cells to become cancerous. DNA mutations lead to enhanced risk of developing breast cancer.There have also been some genetic factors that have been found to cause breast cancer that runs in the family through generations. For example , BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes that have been found to be responsible for hereditary breast cancer in women.
But most breast cancer DNA changes happen in single breast cells during a woman's lifetime instead of getting resulted from the genetic factors or gene mutation.
What then are some of the things that can reduce the risk of breast cancer ?
- Pregnancy: Estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy. The risk of breast cancer appears to be lower if a woman has her first full-term pregnancy before she is 20 years old.
- Breast-feeding: Estrogen levels may remain lower while a woman is breast-feeding.
- Ovarian ablation: The amount of estrogen made by the body can be greatly reduced by removing one or both ovaries, which make estrogen. Also, drugs may be taken to lower the amount of estrogen made by the ovaries.
- Late menstruation: Beginning to have menstrual periods at age 14 or older decreases the number of years the breast tissue is exposed to estrogen.
- Early menopause: The fewer years a woman menstruates, the shorter the time her breast tissue is exposed to estrogen.
Endogenous estrogen is a hormone made by the body. Being exposed to estrogen over a long time may increase the risk of breast cancer. Estrogen levels are highest during the years a woman is menstruating. A woman's exposure to estrogen is increased in the following ways:
- Early menstruation: Beginning to have menstrual periods at age 11 or younger increases the number of years the breast tissue is exposed to estrogen.
- Late menopause: The more years a woman menstruates, the longer her breast tissue is exposed to estrogen.
- Late pregnancy or never being pregnant: Because estrogen levels are lower during pregnancy, breast tissue is exposed to more estrogen in women who become pregnant for the first time after age 35 or who never become pregnant..
Radiation therapy to the chest for the treatment of cancers increases the risk of breast cancer, starting 10 years after treatment and lasting for a lifetime. The risk of developing breast cancer depends on the doseof radiation and the age at which it is given. The risk is highest if radiation treatment was used duringpuberty. For example, radiation therapy used to treat Hodgkin disease by age 16, especially radiation to the chest and neck, increases the risk of breast cancer.
However, radiation therapy to treat cancer in one breast does not appear to increase the risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
For women who are at risk of breast cancer due to inherited changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, exposure to radiation, such as that from chest x-rays, may further increase the risk of breast cancer, especially in women who were x-rayed before 20 years of age.
Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have not used hormone replacement therapy.
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of breast cancer. The level of risk obviously increase as the alcohol intake increases.
October is a breast cancer month.We are organizing a breast cancer " Walk for Life" on 25th October at the Noida stadium.
Please do join in or organize an event of your own in your community.
Let us increase awareness about cancer in our immediate environment.
You can save many precious lives.
" Every Life Matters"
Pradeep K Jaisingh