Some factors like genetics, age, and being female are beyond our control. But many highrisk factors are lifestyle-related choices.
A risk factor is something that can increase your chances of getting a disease. Certain risk factors are out of your control such as getting older, your gender, or inheriting certain genes. However, certain lifestyle choices can make increase your risk of breast cancer. These factors include lifestyle-related habits, such as diet, exercise, child-birth, and medications that impact hormones.
The connection between breast cancer and weight is a complex one. According to the American Cancer Society, more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase the chances of breast cancer. Before menopause, the ovaries make most of the estrogen, while fat tissues make a limited amount. Post-menopause, most of the estrogen comes from fat tissues. Being overweight can also cause higher blood insulin levels, which are linked to cancers, including breast cancer.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the amount of alcohol consumed also matters. According to Breastcancer.org, consuming alcoholic beverages regularly, including beer, wine, and liquor, has a direct impact on a woman's risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. It also damages certain DNA in cells that in turn leads to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Women who are physically active face less risk of breast cancer, according to many studies. According to a report published in the US National Library of Medicine, there was a 25% average decrease in risk amongst women who were physically active as compared to those who were least active. According to a report published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention, regular physical exercise also reduces the chance of relapse in breast cancer survivors.
Women who have never had children or if their first child was after the age of 30 have a slightly higher risk, according to the American Cancer Society. Multiple pregnancies, as well as pregnancy at an early age, reduces the risk of breast cancer. However, the link between pregnancy and breast cancer is not so straightforward. Cancers are called hormone receptor-positive or hormone receptor-negative based on whether or not they have these receptors (proteins) linked to estrogen or progesterone. The risk of having breast cancer is higher in the first decade after having a child, especially a hormone receptor-negative breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, implants are linked to a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). It can form around the implant in the scar tissue. This is more common in implants with textured surfaces rather than smooth surfaces.
Women who use oral contraceptives have a slightly higher risk than women who have never used them, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the risks return to normal after 10 years of not using them. Another kind of birth control, the Depo-Provera, which is an injectable form of progesterone administered every three months, may cause an increased risk for breast cancer. Other forms of birth control like implants, intrauterine devices (IUDs), skin patches, vaginal rings, could theoretically increase breast cancer growth because of the use of hormones but there are not enough conclusive studies to prove it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women who undergo hormone therapy or associated medications for treating the symptoms of menopause are at a higher risk of breast cancer. However, that risk goes down when the medications are stopped.