Breast Cancer Awareness Month

by | 13 Oct, 2022 | Uncategorized

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and the principal cause of death from cancer among women globally (327 000 deaths each year).  In South Africa, 1 in 27 women have breast cancer. 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive 5 years after their diagnosis (due to early detection & treatment).

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

  1. Sex – breast cancer affects more women than men. 
  2. Age – risk of breast cancer goes up as one gets older BUT does not mean you cannot get cancer when you are younger.
  3. Family history – IF one has first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer risk is doubled. IF one has first-degree male relative (brother, father, son) diagnosed with prostate cancer, the risk of breast cancer is increased (especially if diagnosed at a younger age).
  4. Genetics – 5% to 10% of breast cancers are hereditary (caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child), most common gene mutations are BRCA1 and BRCA2. BRCA 1 associated with breast & ovarian cancer; BRCA 2 associated with gynaecological cancer & other cancers.
  5. Personal history of breast cancer – 3 to 4 times increased risk to develop a new cancer in the other breast or a different part of the same breast.
  6. Radiation to chest before age 30 – to treat another cancer (not breast cancer), such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one has a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer.
  7. Being overweight – overweight and obese women have a higher risk especially after menopause. 
  8. Pregnancy history – women who haven’t had a full-term pregnancy or had their first child after age 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer. 
  9. Breastfeeding history – breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for > 1 year.
  10. Menstrual history – women who started menstruating (having periods) below the age 12 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life; same is true for women who go through menopause before the age of 55. 
  11. Using HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) – current or recent past users of HRT have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
  12. Drinking alcohol – increases the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. 
  13. Dense breasts – can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer and can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer.
  14. Lack of exercise – exercising regularly at a moderate or intense level for 4 to 7 hours per week have lower risk of breast cancer. 
  15. Smoking – higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women.

That being said: Breast cancer is NOT sexist, racist or ageist disease