What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

breast cancerBreast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from the breast cells. It is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S. There are different types of breast cancer. The condition can be non-invasive or invasive and the cancerous cells can differ in terms of where they are located.

Most breast cancers are sporadic and develop if a person’s genes are damaged by chance after they are born. Environmental factors are the underlying cause of this type of cancer. So there is no chance of the person passing this gene to their children.

Inherited breast cancer is the less common type and makes up 5% to 10% of the cancers. It occurs when gene changes (mutations) are transferred from parent to child. Many of those mutations are in BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2 (tumor suppressor genes), which prevent the cells from growing out of control and turning into cancer.  If these cells have a mutation they can grow .

Some people showing a high risk of breast cancer may not develop it, while at the same time, people who do not show any risk factors can develop it. So understanding the risk factors that you cannot change and can be change is necessary to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer

Risk factors that you can change

  • Regular alcohol consumption.
  • Not having healthy foods.
  • Not being physically active.
  • Doing post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT).
  • Being obese.
  • Being pregnant for the first time after the age of 30.
  • Not breastfeeding.
  • Use of birth control pills.
  • Exposure to chemicals such as paraben and phthalates that are present in cosmetics.
  • Exposure to chemicals in plastic products, in particular, bisphenol A (BPA).
Risk factors that you cannot change

  • Being a women.
  • If you have already been diagnosed for breast cancer.
  • White women have more chance of developing breast cancer than women of other race.
  • Having a family history of breast cancer, especially for your mother, daughter, or sister.
  • For a person who has multiple relatives that are affected by breast or ovarian cancer especially before the age of 50.
  • Inherited risk.
  • Menstruation before the age of 11 and menopause after age 55.
  • If unusual changes occurs during a breast biopsy.
  • Exposed to radiation therapy to the chest as a child or young adult for another cancer.

Women should self-examine their breasts regularly and also perform mammogram screening starting at the age of 40. This will help in early detection of cancer and increase the chance of survival as there are more treatment options  available in the early stage. So, consider the risk factors you can change. Exercising regularly, maintaining a proper diet, and reducing stress and anxiety could help lower risk of breast cancer.

 

9 Things You can do to Reduce your Risk of Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs when some breast cancer cells starts to grow abnormally and result in a lump or mass. Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. The American Cancer Society predicted that in 2020:

  • Around 276,480 of women (new cases) will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
  • Around 48,530 new cases of carcinoma in situ (non-invasive, the earliest form of breast cancer) will be diagnosed.
  • Around 42,170 women are expected to die from breast cancer.

In women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. (lung cancer is the first). It is estimated that 1 in 38 women will die from breast cancer.
The main factors that can increase the risk of having breast cancer are:

  • Environment
  • Not maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Not maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not following a healthy diet
  • Genetics
  • Getting older

Increased awareness about breast cancer can help to detect breast cancer early. It allows the patient to get better treatment, which reduces the risk of death.

People should be aware of the things that can be controlled by themselves to prevent or lower the risk of breast cancer. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  • Eat healthy foods: It is important to avoid sugary beverages, fried foods, processed foods, and red meat and include dietary fiber and antioxidants, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and foods that contain healthy fat such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc. Your physician can recommend a proper diet chart for you to follow.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol on a regular basis: Studies show that regular consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer. It is reported that alcohol consumption can lead to rising estrogen levels and can damage DNA (breastcancer.org). If your alcohol consumption is more than a drink a day, then you should stop or cut it down to lower the risk of breast cancer.
  • Breastfeed as much as you can: Breastfeeding can help you to shed breast tissue, and this removes the breast cells with potential DNA damage, thus reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. It will also provides excellent health benefits for your child.
  • Stay physically active: The American Cancer Society suggests that adults get 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity or 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or both combined each week. Regular exercise can lower the risk of breast cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: The risk of developing breast cancer will increase if you are obese. Having more fatty tissue can increase the level of estrogen and thus increase the chance of developing breast cancer. Also, being overweight can lead to higher insulin levels which is linked to breast cancer.
  • Avoid hormone therapy after menopause: It is also known as post-menopausal hormone therapy (PHT). Women use this therapy to ease symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and sweating. It increases the risk of breast cancer. Women who choose post-menopausal hormones should do it for the shortest time possible. To take best decision about this, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Avoid smoking: Everbody knows the harmful effects of smoking. It lowers the quality of life and increase the risk of many diseases, including different types of cancer. Risk of breast cancer are higher among women who started smoking during adolescence.
  • Avoid the use of birth control pills: Using birth control pills have both risks and advantages. Women who take birth control pills have an increased risk of breast cancer. If you stop using the pill, the risk is reduced.
  • Screening mammograms: Women are advised to have mammogram screening starting at the age of 40 to detect cancer early when it is more treatable. If something is found in the mammogram, more tests may be needed to confirm whether it is cancer or not. Early detection improves the opportunity for better treatment options.

Women with a family history of cancer should take proper steps to protect themselves. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, and don’t forget to self-examine your breasts regularly. If you notice any changes, consult a doctor without any delay. Symptoms of breast cancer include pain, swelling, redness or thickening of skin. Following these stesps can lower your risk of developing breast cancer and improve quality of life.

Types of Breast Cancer and Their Symptoms

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease that occurs due to uncontrolled breast cell division. According to breastcancer.org, on average, a woman has 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer over an 80-year old lifespan. On the other hand, 7 in 8 women have no chance of developing breast cancer.

The breast is made up of lobules (milk glands), ducts and connective tissue. The milk glands produce milk, the ducts carry the milk to the nipple, and the connective tissue surrounds and connects everything together. Breast cancer usually begins in the lobules or ducts.

Breast cancer type depends on which cells in the breast become cancerous. According to cancer.org, 81% of breast cancers are invasive, which means the abnormal cells have broken through the walls of the glands or ducts from where they originated and have grown into the surrounding breast tissue. Breast cancer was referred as a single disease earlier, but now it is considered a group of diseases depending on the type of tissue in which cancer originates. The cancer would differ based on risk factors, presentation, response to treatment, and outcomes.

Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms:

  • You can feel a lump or mass in the breast.
  • Even if there is no lump, swelling occurs on all areas or different parts of the breast.
  • Nipple/breast pain.
  • Nipple turning inward.
  • Nipple discharge.
  • Skin irritation.
  • The nipple or breast skin appears red, scaly or thickened.
  • A lump or swelling may occur in the underarm lymph nodes.

Different kinds of breast cancer show different kinds of symptoms. For instance, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is formed in the milk ducts and the cancer cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. This may cause a distinct breast lump that you can feel. In invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), which is formed in milk-producing glands, there is thickening in the breast, and the cancer cells spread from milk glands or lobules to the surrounding breast tissues.

The common types of breast cancer

  • Invasive lobular carcinoma: The cancer cells that originates from the lobules spread to the nearby breast tissues and also to other parts of the body.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma: This disease starts in the milk ducts and spreads to the fatty tissue of the breast outside the ducts. It accounts for 80% of invasive breast cancers.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ: This is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. It is characterized by cancerous cells that are restricted to the lining of the milk ducts and have not spread through the duct walls into surrounding breast tissue. If the ductal carcinoma in situ lesions are left untreated, it will become invasive breast cancer over time because cancer cells may break through the duct and spread to close-by tissue. Most cases are detected with a mammogram.

    Symptoms:

    • Does not cause any symptoms.
    • Rarely, you can feel a lump in the breast.
    • Rarely, nipple discharge.

  • Lobular carcinoma in situ: Lobular carcinoma begins in the lobules but does not spread through the wall of the lobules to the surrounding breast tissue or other parts of the body. It is not actually cancer, but for about 25% of women, its presence will lead to the development of breast cancer at some point. Frequent screening is required.

    Symptoms:

    • Normally does not cause any symptoms and cannot be seen in a mammogram.
    • Usually found when a doctor is doing a breast biopsy to investigate an unrelated breast lump.
    • The breast cells will appear abnormal when examined under a microscope.


  • Rare Types of Breast Cancer

  • Inflammatory breast cancer: This often starts in soft tissues of the breast. It causes the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast to become blocked. The breast become firm, tender, itchy, red and warm due. This increases blood flow and build-up WBC.

    Symptoms:

    • Rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear in mammogram or ultrasounds.
    • Breast become firm, tender, itchy, red and warm.
    • Heaviness, burning or aching in one breast.
    • Inverted nipple.
    • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and or above the collarbone.



    A self-breast exam, clinical breast-exam, ultrasounds or even mammogram may not detect this type of breast cancer. However, the changes to the surface of the breast caused by inflammatory breast cancer can be seen by the naked eye.

  • Metastatic breast cancer: Also known as stage IV or advanced breast cancer. It is the breast cancer that has spread to other organs of the body. It can affect commonly lung, liver, bone and brain.

    Symptoms:

    • Sometimes it does not cause any symptoms.
    • May be found in lymph nodes in the armpit or can travel to anywhere in the body.
    • Can occur pain, nipple discharge, lump or thickening in the breast or underarm if the breast or chest wall is affected.
    • Can cause pain, fractures, constipation, decreased alertness due to increased calcium level, if bones are affected.
    • Can cause nausea, extreme fatigue, swelling of the feet and hand, if liver is affected.
    • Shortness of breath, coughing, chest wall pain, fatigue, if the tumor forms in the lungs.
    • Can cause pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred, difficulty in speech, movements or seizures if cancer spreads to the brain, spinal cord and forms tumors.

  • Papillary carcinoma: The cancer cells are arranged in finger-like projections or papules. The condition is treated same like invasive ductal carcinoma. A routine mammogram can detect the development of papillary carcinoma.

    Symptoms:

    • A lump about 2 to 3 cm in size which can be detected during a breast self-exam.
    • 50% of papillary carcinomas occur under nipple, resulting in bloody nipple discharge.

  • Triple-negative breast cancer: This type of breast cancer does not have any of the receptors such as estrogen, progesterone and HER2 protein that are commonly found in other breast cancers. This means hormone therapy, a traditional breast cancer treatment, would not be effective. Instead, it would require chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation.

    Symptoms:

    • A lump or mass in the breast.
    • Breast pain or redness.
    • Nipple turns inward.
    • Nipple discharge.

  • Paget’s disease of the breast: This form of breast cancer causes eczema-like changes to the skin on the nipple and areola. It forms less than 3 percent of all breast cancers.

    Symptoms:

    • Eczema-like changes on the nipple and areola.
    • Nipple discharge.
    • Inverted nipples.
    • Painful and burning sensation especially in advanced stages of the disease.
    • Redness, lump, oozing, sores that do not heal.

  • Male breast cancer: Breast cancer can occur for men when malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. It usually occurs in the 60-70 age group. About 1 percent of all breast cancers occur in men.

    Symptoms:

    • A lump or swelling which is often painless.
    • Skin dimpling or puckering.
    • Nipple retraction.
    • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin.
    • Nipple discharge.

Some types of breast cancer don’t show any symptoms or may not be detected in a mammogram or ultrasound. It is very important to self-examine your breasts every day. If you find any changes, signs or symptoms in your breasts that worry you, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Absolute Risk and Relative Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Having several risk factors doesn’t mean that you are likely to develop breast cancer and having low risk factors doesn’t mean that you will never develop it. The term risk describes the number or percentage of the possibility for a certain event to occur. Understanding the risk factors can help you take certain preventive strategies.

Absolute risk describes the probability of an individual to develop breast cancer. When you say that 12% of U.S women or 1 in 8 U.S women will develop breast cancer over the course of a lifetime, it shows the absolute risk. Over an 80-year lifespan, on average, a woman has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, the chance of not developing breast cancer is 87.2%, or about 7 in 8.

The younger you are, the lower the risk. For instance:

  • According to breastcancer.org, if your present age is 20, for the next 10 years, the chance of developing invasive breast cancer, is .06% or 1 in 1,732 which means that, 1 in 1732 women in the same age group can expect to develop breast cancer. It can also be said that, if you are in this age group, your chance of developing breast cancer is 1 in 1732.
  • If your present age is 30, for the next 10 years, your chance of developing invasive breast cancer is .44% or 1 in 228.
  • If your present age is 40, for the next 10 years, your chance of developing invasive breast cancer is 1.45% or 1 in 69.
  • If your present age is 50, for the next 10 years, your chance of developing invasive breast cancer is 2.31 or 1 in 43.
  • If your present age is 60, for the next 10 years, your chance of developing invasive breast cancer is 3.49% or 1 in 29.
  • If your present age is 70, for the next 10 years, your chance of developing invasive breast cancer is 3.84% i.e. 1 in 26.

So, this means that when you are younger, the risk of developing breast cancer is low and when you get older, the probability of developing breast cancer increases. That means the older you are, the higher your absolute risk of breast cancer. Remember that these numbers and percentages are averages for the whole population.

Your individual breast cancer risk can be higher or lower based on family history, gender, race, weight, reproductive history, and other factors.

For instance, considering family history, the absolute risk of breast cancer for women who have inherited mutations in the genes known as BRCA1 or BRCA2 is much higher. For women with a BRCA1 mutation, the risk of developing breast cancer is 72% by age 80. This shows that, out of 100 women who have this mutation, 72 of them can expect the chance of developing breast cancer should they live to age 80. The risk is a bit lower for the women who have BRCA2 mutation, it is 69%.

If you have breast cancer, absolute risk can also describe the chance of the outcome of a certain treatment, or the course of the disease. For instance, based on the characteristics of the breast cancer like stage, grade, other test results, your age and medical history, and the treatments you have, your doctor will tell you that your chance of disease-free survival or being alive with no evidence of breast cancer within 5 years is 90%. That means that your absolute risk of having breast cancer come back within 5 years is 10% or 1 in10.

In other words, 1 out of 10 women with similar characteristics and the same treatment plan have the chance of having breast cancer to come back within 5 years, and 9 out of 10 have no chance of recurrence.

Relative Risk provides the percentage or number by comparing one group’s risk of developing breast cancer to another group’s risk. Relative risk is the type of risk that research studies normally use to compare groups of women with different characteristics or behaviours to find out whether one group has a higher or lower risk of breast cancer than the other (either as a first-time diagnosis or recurrence).

Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Studies have shown that many women consuming two or more alcoholic drinks (means 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor) per day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

  • Women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day have 50 % higher risk of developing breast cancer when compared to women who do not drink. This doesn’t mean that their risk of developing breast cancer is 50% for the lifetime, it means that the risk is 50 % higher when compared to non-drinkers. This percentage is how you are likely to see relative risk reported by the internet, television, and newspapers.
  • Women who consume two or more alcoholic drinks per day have a relative risk of 1.5 when compared to women who do not drink. This is the number that researchers and scientific papers would usually talk about relative risk. The number “1” is the baseline group i.e. the women who do not drink, since the risk remains the same for them. The .5 is the relative increase in the risk for the other group, it is expressing the 50% higher lifetime risk in another way (50%= .5).

    In other words, the women who have alcoholic drinks per day for two or more times, the risk of developing breast cancer is 1.5 times than women who don’t drink.

Here 50% risk is the risk relative to the people who do not drink. However, it does not tell a women about her lifetime risk if she drinks two or more drinks per day for the rest of her life. It is necessary to multiply the absolute risk of breast cancer (12%) for women in the general population by relative risk (1.5), since women in this group have 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer.

  • 12*1.5 = 18. This means that the absolute lifetime risk of developing breast cancer for a women, if she drinks two or more alcoholic drinks per day is about 18%, versus 12% for women who do not drink.

Lower Breast Cancer Risk

  • If you had early breast cancer and lumpectomy, the absolute risk of having the recurrence of breast cancer within 10 years is 35%.
  • According to a study that reviewed 17 clinical trials of radiation therapy after lumpectomy, if you have radiation therapy to the remaining breast tissue, the risk is reduced by about 46%.
  • Compared to a woman who had a lumpectomy alone, within 10 years, your risk of developing cancer is 46% lower if you have radiation therapy after lumpectomy.
  • Medical researchers might say, when compared to the women who do not have radiation therapy, your relative risk of developing breast cancer is 1 – .46=.54. The number “1” remains in the baseline group. Just because it shows the decrease in risk, .46 is subtracted from 1. That means, when compared to the women who have lumpectomy alone, you have 54% of the risk of developing breast cancer again in the same breast as they do within 10 years.
  • To know the difference what radiation therapy really make you to reduce the absolute risk of cancer recurrence in the same breast, you have to multiply the 10-year risk of recurrence without radiation by the relative risk i.e. .35*.54 = 19.
  • This means 19% of absolute risk or just under 1 in 5 of cancer recurrence in the same breast, if you have radiation therapy versus about 35% or just over 1 in 3, if you don’t have radiation therapy. So, fewer than 1 in 9 women can expect the recurrence of breast cancer in the same breast versus more than 1 in 3 women who do not have radiation therapy.

A relative risk of .5 means that your risk goes down by half or 50%, 1.88 means your risk goes up by 88% and 3.0 means your risk has become 3 times or goes up by 300%.

From this, it is obvious that lifestyle factors and treatment options can increase or decrease the risk of breast cancer. As mentioned earlier, when you get older, the risk of developing breast cancer goes up. So, it is better to understand the risk factors and monitor yourself even if your risk factors are low to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.

Misconceptions and Facts about Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs due to abnormal growth of some breast cells. According to U.S Breast Cancer Statistics, in 2020, about 42, 170 women in the U.S are expected to die from breast cancer. There are so many misconceptions out there about breast cancer and it’s important to understand the facts.

Misconception 1: If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you don’t get it.

Fact: Many people think that breast cancer is an inherited disease. But only 5-10% of people who have a family history of breast cancer are diagnosed with it. The vast majority who get breast cancer have no family history, with environment and lifestyle being the prominent causative factors.

Misconception 2: You can do nothing to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer.

Fact: In a vast majority of women with breast cancer, the condition is caused due to the factors such as environment and lifestyle. You can reduce your risk by leading a healthy lifestyle – maintaining a healthy weight, following a nutritious diet, avoiding too much alcohol, not smoking, and starting mammograms at the age 40.

Misconception 3: A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread.

Fact: A mammogram is the x-ray of the breast that helps in early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms require a small dose of radiation and the risk of harm from this radiation is extremely low. Screening can find cancer before any symptoms appear.

Misconception 4: Only women get breast cancer.

Fact: This is a big misconception. According to nationalbreastcancer.org, each year, approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and it is estimated that about 410 will die. Men should do self-examination of their breasts to check whether there any changes are happening, and if there are changes, report them to their physician immediately.

Misconception 5: Antiperspirants and deodorants can cause breast cancer.

Fact: There is no evidence that the use of antiperspirants and deodorants can cause breast cancer.

Misconception 6: If you find a lump in your breast, it is cancer.

Fact: Not all lumps are cancerous. Some may form due to cysts or scar tissue. However, if you feel any changes in your breasts it is better to consult a physician. Other symptoms of breast cancer include pain, swelling, redness or thickening of skin.

Misconception 7: Too much sugar consumption causes breast cancer.

Fact: There is no such evidence that sugar causes breast cancer. Eating too much sugar can lead to obesity that can increase the risk of various cancer.

Misconception 8: Breast implants increase breast cancer risk.

Fact: The risk of breast cancer is same for women with or without breast implants. However, standard mammograms don’t always work well for women with breast implants, and so they need additional X-rays to fully examine their breast tissue.

Misconception 9: Birth control pills can cause breast cancer.

Fact: Studies in 1990s showed that taking birth control pills may slightly increase risk of breast cancer. However, since then, the pills produced contain much lower doses of the hormones linked to those risks.

Misconception 10: Coffee can cause breast cancer.

Fact: There is no link between caffeine and breast cancer. In fact, research shows that caffeine may lower your risk of breast cancer.

Misconception 11: All breast cancer is treated the same way.

Fact: Depending on the characteristics of the cancer and patient preferences, treatment for breast cancer may vary. Some breast cancers are small, yet aggressive. Some grow slowly and become life-threatening. So, for each patient, the treatments and outcomes are different.

Maintaining a healthy diet, restricting intake of fat and sugars, staying physically active, and performing routine breast self-exams are some of the things you can do to decrease your breast cancer risk. Also, don’t forget to self-examine your breasts regularly. If you find any unusual changes, report it to your doctor as soon as possible.

Dietary Choices that can reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Dietary Choices that can reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers found in American women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated there would be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in the US in 2019. Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, which are not within a person’s control. However, experts say that making certain lifestyle changes can lower your risk. One such change is healthy food choices.

Eating a healthy diet can decrease your risk of medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Research suggests that dietary factors could be responsible for 30–40%of all cancers. So your dietary choices can make a difference to your risk of developing breast cancer or your overall well-being while living with the condition. Although no specific food can cause or prevent breast cancer, including certain items in your diet may help reduce your overall breast cancer risk.

Mayo Clinic notes that “women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. This is mainly because the Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. So, people who follow the Mediterranean diet automatically choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and eat fish instead of red meat”.

Here are certain foods that play a role in a healthful diet in general and may also help prevent the development or progression of breast cancer:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables: According to a Medical News Today article, a study of 91,779 women found that following a diet comprising mainly plants could cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 15%. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and veggies a day, limiting processed and red meats, and choosing whole grains to help reduce risks of all types of cancer. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends consuming between five and nine servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.Fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, which have various medical benefits. Your diet should include cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and all items that are high in Vitamin A and C) and fruits, especially berries and peaches.

    A new study has found that eating certain foods could help decrease the side effects caused by breast cancer treatment. The research suggests that diet can serve as a modifiable target for possibly reducing symptoms among breast cancer survivors.

  • Fiber-rich foods: Several studies have suggested that fiber rich foods such as whole grains, beans, and legumes can help protect against the disease. Eating a high fiber diet can keep estrogen from interacting with breast cancer cells, which could be a factor in the development and spread of some types of breast cancer and accelerate the elimination of estrogen.Fiber-rich foods also support the digestive system and the regular elimination of waste, including excess estrogen. This helps the body eliminate toxins and limits the damage that they can do. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend an intake of up to 33.6 grams of fiber a day, depending on a person’s age and sex.
  • Antioxidants foods that are mainly plant based: Medical News Today reported ona 2013 meta-analysis which found that people who eat more whole grains may have a lower risk of breast cancer. Whole grains can help prevent many diseases by reducing the numbers of free radicals, which are waste substances that the body naturally produces. Foods such as lentils and legumes, are rich in protein, fiber, folic, iron and an array of antioxidants.
  • Soybean-based products: A plant based product that is rich in protein, soybean is a food that is rich in healthful fat, vitamins, and minerals but low in carbohydrates, that may reduce the risk of breast cancer. It also contains antioxidants known as isoflavones, which can possibly help bind estrogen and decrease the risk of hormone related cancers such as breast and prostate. Soy is present in foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk and soy nuts.

Other foods that experts recommend to reduce breast cancer risk are: low fat milk and dairy products, foods rich in vitamin D and other vitamins, and spiceswith anti-inflammatory properties such as capsaicin, turmeric, and garlic.

Apart from healthy diet, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity levels and weight management, could lower the risks of getting breast cancer.

 

Study: Certain Foods may help reduce Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Breast Cancer TreatmentTreatments done to prevent breast cancer recurrence often inhibit the body’s production or use of estrogen, the hormone that can contribute to the spread of breast cancer. As a result of treatment, patients experience certain side effects such as hot flushes and night sweats. The side effects of breast cancer treatment can last months or years after completion of the treatment and can adversely impact survivors’ quality of life and can lead them to stopping ongoing treatments. Now, a new study has found that eating certain foods could help decrease the side effects caused by breast cancer treatment. The research suggests that diet can serve as a modifiable target for possibly reducing symptoms among breast cancer survivors.

A team of scientists led by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center found that soy foods (such as soy milk, tofu and edamame) and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbages, kale, collard greens, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and broccoli) helped reduce common side effects of treatment in breast cancer survivors. According to the study:

  • Patients who consumed more soy foods showed evocative associations with lower reporting of other symptoms, including joint problems, hair thinning/loss and memory, but these associations did not reach statistical significance.
  • High intake of soy foods was found to be associated with decrease in fatigue
  • The photochemicals or bioactive food components such as isoflavones in soy foods and glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables may be the source of the benefit.

The researchers, however, warned that until there is additional research on this topic, breast cancer patients should not suddenly start eating soy if they have not consumed it before, though they can safely include cruciferous vegetables in their diet.

Things You need to Know about Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention

Breast Cancer ScreeningAccording to breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the US developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 12%. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer found in American women. These statistics are an eye opener and women should be aware about this disease, its risks, and the importance of screening and early detection.

Breast cancer screening involves checking a woman’s breast before there are signs of symptoms of the disease. Screening is important because early detection can be the key to survive the cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends mammograms as the best breast cancer screening option. The ACS has set certain screening guidelines for women based on their age:

  • 40 to 44 – They have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • 45 to 54 – They should get mammograms every year.
  • 55 and older – They should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.

Breast cancer screening is not about preventing breast cancer, but helps to diagnose the diseases early and so that medications can be started. All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. Some women would be recommended to screen with MRI along with mammograms due to their family history, genetic tendency or other factors.

If you are opting for mammograms, here are some things that you should know:

  • Preparing for a mammogram: Ask your physician how the test is going to be done and the time taken. Many women would feel some kind of anxiety of how is it going to be done. So knowing the details before the procedure would help in reducing anxiety and embarrassment.
  • How frequently you should get a mammogram: Consult with your physician to determine how often you should get a mammogram. Mammograms help in early detection of breast cancer, have saved many lives, and also reduced the severity of treatment that women with breast cancer must undergo.
  • Discuss your family history, genetic tendency of cancer if any: Always be open with your doctor in discussing your family history about any cancer cases. If you have a strong family history of cancer, you may be at high risk but is not a must to have breast cancer. Informing your doctor about it is important for your doctor and you to stay vigilant. For high risk women, breast MRI is used along with mammograms for screening.

You can’t eliminate the risk of having breast cancer, but taking these simple steps can help lower your risk of breast cancer:

  • Be physically active
  • Maintain an ideal BMI
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Workout regularly
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Consider breast-feeding
  • Try to avoid post-menopausal hormones and birth control pills, especially after age 35

A healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of many serious diseases. Early screening, detection and intervention can reduce disease severity.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

Tips Reduce the Risk of Breast CancerAccording to official statistics, 12% of women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. It is expected that, in 2016, there will be about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer, along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Various organizations across the country continually conduct campaigns to educate women on measures to reduce the risk of the disease.

Family history is a risk factor. However, there are certain lifestyle choices that every woman can make to keep her risk of developing breast cancer as low as possible.

  • Don’t smoke – quit if you do. Research links smoking and breast cancer risk especially in premenopausal women. Not smoking will also improve your general health.
  • Limit intake of alcohol to less than 1 drink a day as even small amounts can increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for the condition. The risk is greater when obesity occurs at later stages in life, especially after menopause. So take measures to control your weight.
  • Being physically active is very important to improve your overall health and that’s why it’s crucial to make regular physical activity a part of your life. The ideal pattern for older adults, according to the Department of Health and Human Services is 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity as well as strength training at least twice a week.
  • Include plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous items, in your diet. In addition to nutrients, they have lower fat content and higher fiber content compared to animal products.
  • Women who breastfeed their babies for at least one year have reduced risks of breast cancer.
  • Exposure to radiation and environmental pollution should be avoided.

Know your risks and ask your doctor about when you should do mammograms and other screenings. Keep a watch for any changes in your breasts. If you notice warning signs such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor immediately. Early detection improves the chances of treating breast cancer more successfully.

Implications of the New Mammography Guidelines

Mammography GuidelinesMammograms play a key role in the early detection of breast cancer and can save lives. However, breast cancer screening comes with drawbacks such as false positives and unnecessary biopsies. One much debated question is when women should start getting a mammogram and how often they should get screened. Two expert groups – the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – differ in their opinion on this matter. Let’s see what the new guidelines released by these experts have to say.

According to the government’s U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines on mammography which came out in January 2016:

  • Women ages 50 to 74 should have mammograms every other year.
  • Mammograms are optional for women ages 40 to 49, and the decision to be screened should be based on the woman’s risk factors, preferences, and values.

These recommendations are different from those released in October 2015 by the ACS. In their updated guidelines, the ACS recommends:

  • Screening every year from ages 45 through 54 as the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases at this point
  • Biennial screening (screening every other year) for older women who are more likely to develop slower-growing cancers

According to the ACS, the risk of breast cancer is so low in women under 45 that the harms of mammography will be greater than the benefits for this age group.

The new screening guidelines of the USPSTF stress that personal preferences and individual health history are important factors to consider. Women should be aware about the benefits and drawbacks of screening, and weigh the benefits to the harms of screening to make the decision as to whether to have a mammography or not. According to the USPSTF, women between the ages of 50 and 74 experience the best balance of benefits versus risks. However, yearly mammograms may prove harmful for women in their forties as they are likely to have dense breast tissue which could lead to false-positives. This could lead to another mammogram, ultrasound or MRI to confirm the results. Follow-up screenings often show no problems with the breast tissue, but they can put women through unnecessary anxiety, stress and treatment.

In a review of the latest guidelines on mammography, Harvard Medical School recommends that women discuss the matter with their doctor to determine when and whether they should have their next mammogram. The decision can be based on factors such as personal breast cancer risk, mammography risks and benefits, personal preferences, and age.

Mammography guidelines for average-risk women based on age

Age ACS USPSTF
40–44 No routine screening No routine screening
45–50 Annual screening No routine screening
50–54 Annual screening Biennial screening
55 or older Biennial screening as long as the woman is healthy and has a life expectancy of at least 10 years. Biennial screening through age 74. Insufficient evidence to recommend for or against screening for women 75 or older.
Sources: American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.