The exact cause of breast cancer is not known; however, there are many factors that are believed to contribute to the development of this type of cancer.
Some of these factors are in a person’s control and others are not. A person may have one or several of these factors and never develop cancer. They can also have none of them and still develop cancer.
Factors out of a person’s control include things like their gender, age, genetics, and race. Women over the age of 55 have a higher chance of developing breast cancer. It’s also important to be aware of the symptoms of breast cancer and get regular screenings.
While it isn’t necessarily a genetic disease, there have been strong links shown in regards to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These are genes that suppress tumors. When something has gone wrong with these genes, a woman has an 80% higher chance of developing breast cancer. This is seen in approximately 5% – 10% of cases.
DNA mutations leading to breast cancer can also occur randomly in a single cell. Family history is a factor that is often looked at when diagnosing breast cancer, but at the same time 85% of those diagnosed have no family history of the disease.
Many factors related to the potential cause of breast cancer revolve around a woman’s menstrual cycle and number of periods that she has throughout her life. If a woman has fewer periods throughout her life her chance of getting breast cancer is slightly less. She may have fewer periods by having several children at a younger age, thus not getting a period while pregnant.
A woman may have more periods by having no children. Women who start their menstrual cycle early or start menopause late are also seen to have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. Again, this is linked to them having more periods overall throughout their life.
While many risk factors are out of a person’s control, there are some lifestyle choices that a person can control. These include alcohol intake, weight and exercise. Women who drink two to five alcoholic drinks a day, are overweight or who do not exercise are shown to have a higher risk of breast cancer. Drinking has been related to many types of cancer, not just breast cancer. Smoking is another lifestyle choice that in the past has not been directly linked to breast cancer, but today is believed to be a breast cancer risk factor.
A person’s health history can also indicate a lot about their potential for developing breast cancer. If they have been treated for breast cancer in the past, they are more likely to develop it again. Radiation treatments in the breast at an early age have shown to increase a person’s chances. If they have problems with their breasts such as dense breast tissue or non-cancerous breast problems then their chances also increase.