Causes Of Breast Cancer - Family History, Genes...

Breast Cancer Causes

No-one knows exactly what causes breast cancer though there are plenty of “experts” out there who’ll tell you the opposite. The anti-smoking lobby cites tobacco as the main culprit, other campaigners put the blame firmly at the door of harmful chemicals and there’s a myriad of other theories which are supported by varying degrees of scientific evidence.

Just about everything from shampoo and anti-perspirant to tight fitting bras has been held up as the main reason why the world has witnessed a huge surge in breast cancer cases over the last half century.

Be sure of one thing: we just don’t know. If you’ve just been diagnosed with the disease possibly the last thing on your mind right now is researching all the possible factors which may have caused it.

The big “why me?” question is bound to rear its ugly head at some stage and it’s hard having to accept that there’s no definitive answer. But if you think you might be at risk of developing breast cancer it’s well worth knowing some of the widely accepted “high risk” factors so you can either take preventive measures or at least make sure the disease is detected in its early stages.

Until scientists find a miraculous way of reversing the ageing process, there’s nothing you can do about this one. But it’s a fact that the chances of getting breast cancer increase with age. That’s why many screening programmes target women aged 50 and over. This is the average age for the onset of the menopause and most breast cancer cases occur in post-menopausal women.

Family History
Women with a close family relative (mother, sister or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases if the relative’s cancer was found before the onset of the menopause and if the disease has afflicted several generations.

Certain genes are associated with breast cancer so if you have a family history of the disease you might want to consider having a genetic test to determine whether you are in this particular risk group.

Several studies have suggested that women with the longest exposure to the female sex hormone oestrogen (estrogen) are at greater risk. So women who start their periods at an unusually early age, start the menopause unusually late in life or who have never been pregnant have a greater chance of developing the disease as do women who have undergone HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for a prolonged period. Many campaigners feel more research needs to be done into the link between breast cancer and contraceptive pills containing high levels of oestrogen.

Smoking, alcohol and obesity can all increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Scientists can’t agree on the exact extent of the risk posed by these lifestyle factors…but let’s face it, most of us know by now that smoking and excessive drinking are bad for us and more fresh fruit and veg would improve the overall health of most westerners.

Here’s another one the scientists can’t agree on – partly because of the difficulties in pinpointing exactly which harmful chemicals and pollutants a breast cancer sufferer may have been exposed to during her lifetime. But many campaigners are convinced of a strong link between the explosion in the use of chemicals, pollutants and pesticides over the last 50 years and the huge rise in breast cancer cases. The American Breast Cancer Fund is one of the leading campaigners in this field – to find out more visit their excellent web site here:


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