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Did you know these are the major risk factors for breast cancer?

Posted by Dr Jamie Burt on 20 November 2018
Did you know these are the major risk factors for breast cancer?

I think the most useful way to think about this issue is to divide into it things you can do something about and the ones that you are stuck with:

Risks you can do something about:

Exercise: Not exercising regularly increases your risk

Weight: Being overweight (particularly as you get older) increases your risk compared to women of ideal body weight

Alcohol: Research studies show consuming alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. It is dose related (that means the more you drink the more you increase your risk)

Medications: Some forms and I emphasise only some types of oral contraceptive pills have been associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. If you are worried about this you should ask the doctor who prescribes it for you. Taking some preparations of HRT for more than 5 years may increase your risk.

Risks you can't do anything about:

Your age: you can't do anything about this but the incidence of breast cancer increases as you get older. The majority of breast cancers are seen in women over 50.

Pregnancy: Not having children or having your first child after the age 30 increases your risk

Starting your periods early: IF you started menstruating before 12 years of age your breast tissue is exposed to hormones (oestrogen) for longer which is shown to increase your risk.

Late menopause: Similarly to starting periods early if you experience menopause after age 55 your breast tissue has been exposed to hormones (oestrogen) for a longer period and your risk is increased.

Dense breasts: Particularly as you get older your breast tissue is progressively replaced by fatty tissue. Women who have a mammogram and are seen to have a lot of breast tissue rather than fatty tissue are known to have a higher risk. Also if your breasts are dense seeing an abnormality on the mammogram can be more difficult

Family history: Having a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter or father) who has had breast cancer increases your risk. Multiple family members who have had breast cancer on either your mother's or father's side of the family increases your risk.

Your past history: Unfortunately if you have already had breast cancer the risk of getting it again is increased.

Your genes: Most women would be aware that certain genes are associated with a high risk of breast cancer (and certain other cancers). These are the BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes.

Past breast diseases: If you have had particular non-cancerous breast disease (like lobular carcinoma in situ) you may be at higher risk. If you fall into this category you will normally be in a follow up program which means you should have a breast cancer surgeon you are seeing or have seen in the past you can ask and clarify this with.

Radiation to your breasts at a young age: If you had to have radiation treatment for Hodgkin's disease before you turned 30 years of age your risk may be increased. Again if you fall into this situation you will be in a follow up program and you should have someone you can ask and clarify this for your personal situation.

This blog has been included on our site because I think breast cancer is such a common disease this may be of interest to any woman visiting our site.

I am not advocating breast reduction as a way of reducing breast cancer. The reasons to consider breast reduction are physical symptoms (usually neck, back and shoulder pain, rashes or infections under the breast fold) but for the record breast reduction has been observed to reduce the risk of breast cancer in all age groups but particularly as you get older the risk reduction may be as high as 40-50%, I have written a separate blog which you can find on this site which discusses this.

Dr Jamie BurtAuthor:Dr Jamie Burt
About: Dr Jamie Burt was born and educated in Melbourne, attending the University of Melbourne and graduating with MBBS in 1998. He is a member of the Senior Medical Staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and was Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute until 2004. Known for his respectful, informative, and caring approach, Jamie has been caring for women with breast reduction concerns for over 15 years. During this time, one moment stands out as defining what he aims to achieve with The Breast Reduction Clinic.
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