Just as in the case of many other cancers, the exact cause
of breast cancer is unknown. Research into this topic is ongoing. It is thought
that breast cancer could be caused by several genetic, nutritional,
environmental and hormonal factors.
What is certain is that worldwide, the incidence of breast
cancer is rising. But because of early detection, the rate of death from breast
cancer has not increased.
Having the risk factors below does not mean that you will
develop breast cancer. While some risk factors, such as smoking and drinking,
can be avoided, others such as age and genetic inheritance cannot.
While no definitive information is available on exact
causes, researchers have found the following
factors to increase the risk of a woman being diagnosed with breast
Age at first
pregnancy. Age at the time of first pregnancy is significant in that women
who first fell pregnant after the age of 30, or who have never had children,
are at an increased risk.
Age. Women over
50 account for 77 of breast cancer cases.
Early onset of
menstruation. Women whose first period was before the age of 12.
Women who started to smoke within five years of the onset of their first
History of cancer.
Previous breast, ovarian, colon or uterine cancer diagnosis carries an
Dense breast tissue.
This can also complicate the detection of breast tumours.
If a mother or sister was diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause, a
woman’s risk is doubled.
High exposure to
oestrogen. Certain oral contraceptives, when taken over long periods of
time may increase the risk.
Radiation treatment to the chest area before the age of 30 plays a role.
Five or more drinks per day increases the risk. One drink a day carries a
A history of benign
breast lumps and tumours. This is especially true for younger women.
therapy (HRT). Being on HRT for longer than 8 years definitely increases the
Menopause after age
55. Late onset of menopause is a risk factor.
Obesity. Severe overweight
seems to play a role especially if coupled with a high-fat diet.
Breast cancer is more common in women from higher socio-economic groups, women
who are unmarried and women who live in urban areas.
Symptoms of breast cancer
Diagnosing breast cancer
Treating breast cancer
Sources: Health24.com; C Health; National Breast Cancer