February 26, 2013

THE HIGHEST RISK FACTOR IS LOOKING FOR IT:

After 40 Years Of Research, What Do We Know About Preventing Breast Cancer? (Geoffrey Kabat, 2/24/13, Forbes)

Epidemiologic studies over the past 40 years have identified numerous risk factors for breast cancer, including: older age, an early age at menarche, a late age at first full-term birth, not having children, a family history of breast cancer in a first-degree relative, greater height, higher circulating estrogen levels, postmenopausal hormone use, breast density, history of breast biopsies, obesity (for postmenopausal breast cancer), and exposure to ionizing radiation.

Other, probable risk factors are alcohol intake, physical activity (protective), and breast feeding (protective).  Many other factors that have been studied do not seem to affect the risk of breast cancer (dietary fat intake, cigarette smoking, past oral contraceptive use, exposure to electromagnetic fields).

Known risk factors for breast cancer are relatively weak, contributing only a small elevation in risk.  Even having a family history of breast cancer in a first degree relative carries about a twofold increase in risk.  And the more recently discovered breast density is the strongest with roughly a 4-fold increase in risk.  Thus, these breast cancer risk factors are nothing like cigarette smoking as a risk factor for lung cancer, where a current smoker has roughly a 15-fold increased risk compared to that of someone who never smoked, and a heavy smoker might have a 40 or 50-fold increased risk.  Smoking accounts for the vast majority of lung cancer cases.  (The strongest risk factors for breast cancer are older age and being female: women between the ages of 65 and 69 have 15 times greater breast cancer incidence compared to women between the ages of 30 and 34, and women have more than one hundred times the incidence of breast cancer compared to men.)

Posted by at February 26, 2013 5:39 AM
  

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