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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Battle Against Breast Cancer Can Be Won: Risk Factors

Part [1] 2 [3] [4]

Risk Factors in Breast Cancer

There is probably no single answer as to what causes breast cancer, and it is reported that as many as 60 per cent of breast cancers develop without any known risk factors.

1. Estrogen

Researchers believe, however, that the female sex hormone estrogen is the most likely culprit in many cases of breast cancer. Estrogen promotes cellular growth in the tissues of the breasts and reproductive organs, and cancer is a disorder of unrestrained cellular growth.

Moreover, some of the known risk factors for breast cancer include onset of menstruation before age nine, menopause after age fifty-five, having a first child after age forty, and having no or few children.

One thing all of these risk factors have in common is that they result in the breasts being exposed to more estrogen for longer periods.

2. Environmental Factors

Currently, research does not point clearly to environmental factors (such as exposure to pesticides and other pollutants) as a possible factor in the development of breast cancer. However, research on the effects of pesticides is ongoing, and there are many health care professionals that advise avoiding these substances as much as possible, as they mimic these substances in the body.

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3. Obesity

There may be a link between obesity and an increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially for women over fifty years of age. However, this is a complex issue. The risk appears to vary depending on whether a woman has been obese since childhood, or if she gained the excess weight during adulthood.

A study reported in the journal Cancer found that women who gained more than twenty-two pounds since their teenage years doubled their chances of getting breast cancer. Interestingly, the increased risk posed by obesity may also be linked to estrogen. Obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies than thin women. There are conflicting reports to whether eating a high-fat diet is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

However, many physicians believe that it is among the highest risk factors. When a woman eats a diet high in fat and low in fiber, her body produces more estrogen.

4. Heredity

Heredity is a factor in breast cancer as well. There are certain types of the disease that clearly run in families. Researchers estimate that only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers occur in women with a clearly defined genetic predisposition for the disease. Hereditary cancers usually develop before the age of fifty.

5. Estrogen Replacement Therapy

Although it is possible for a woman to get breast cancer at any age, the disease is most common in women over forty, especially post-menopausal women. Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), often used in the treatment of menopause, may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer after long-term use (ten years or more). This risk applies to those who are still using (or have recently stopped using) ERT. Five years after stopping ERT, the breast cancer risk returns to normal.

A recent report from the Iowa Women's Health Study has reported that ERT may not increase risk for most common types of breast cancer, but it may increase risk for certain rare forms of the disease. This is the first report of its kind to come out pinpointing risk for specific tumor types.

6. Gender

Men also can get breast cancer, but they account for fewer than 1 percent of breast cancer cases. However, while it occurs less frequently, breast cancer in men usually is diagnosed at a later, and therefore more serious, stage because neither physicians nor their patients tend to suspect it. Cure rates are, in general, the same for men as they are for women.

It is important to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most curable stage. Making healthy changes in diet and lifestyle, examining your breasts regularly, and having regular mammograms can increase your chances of avoiding or, if need be, overcoming breast cancer.

[SOURCE: Phyllis A. Balch, CNC and James F. Balch, MD, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition, pp 221-222]

Part [1] 2 [3] [4]

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