Breast Cancer

Breast cancer: Other risk factors – 2022

breast cancer

Breast cancer: Other risk factors

Familiarity. Most women who develop breast cancer have no family members with the same condition.

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Breast cancer: Risk factors

It seems that hormones play a decisive role in the onset of this neoplasm. In particular, prolonged exposure of breast tissue to estrogen that is not adequately balanced by the other female hormone, progesterone, would lead to an abnormal development of the elementary components of the gland, that is, the berries and ducts that are dedicated to the production and secretion of milk.

Therefore, all the factors that favor an excessive exposure of breast tissue to estrogen are to be considered elements of risk:

  • Absence of pregnancies. With pregnancy, the menstrual cycle is temporarily interrupted and this reduces the overall burden of estrogen exposure.
  • The first pregnancy after the age of 30. Pregnancies at a young age (in particular, under the age of 20) are considered a protective factor precisely because, during the gestational period, they predominate on the production of estrogen, progesterone and prolactin, hormones that allow the berries and ducts to mature and therefore complete themselves more resistant to harmful stimuli.
  • Early menarche and late menopause. The period of exposure to estrogen increases the longer the “menstrual life”.
  • Failure to breastfeed. Women who breastfeed for more than a year and a half are less at risk of breast cancer. The protection seems to be due to the fact that, in this period, the breasts are less exposed to the action of estrogen. Therefore, the function of the mammary gland does not appear to be involved during breastfeeding.
  • Obesity and overweight. Adipose tissue is an important source of estrogen production. Obese and overweight women produce excess estrogen: this condition, especially in menopause, is a risk condition.
  • Menopausal Replacement Therapies (HRT). HRT has long been considered a risk factor. Based on the latest scientific evidence, it seems that this risk is very slight, mostly associated with an intense and very prolonged use (over 5 years) of hormonal therapies, with drugs and doses very different from those in use today.

Other risk factors

  • Familiarity. Most women who develop breast cancer have no family members with the same condition. Only 15% have at least one first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with a form of breast cancer: in these cases we speak of familiarity. In addition to genetic factors not yet known, common lifestyles and environmental factors are involved.
  • Genetic predisposition. Overall, it is estimated that 5-7% of all breast cancers can be linked to genetic factors. The two genes mainly involved in the hereditary predisposition of breast cancer are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which control that the DNA of breast cells remains intact. The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is approximately 65% ​​for women with BRCA1 mutations, while it is approximately 40% for BRCA2 mutations.
  • Diet: the risk of developing breast cancer seems to be directly related to the consumption of animal fats and inversely proportional to the consumption of vegetable fibers.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

The onset picture is characterized by very small and often asymptomatic lesions, not palpable during clinical examination and discovered only during mammography screening.

As the tumor grows, the first symptoms may present themselves as:

  • Swelling or thickening on the breast or axillary area, with hard lumps, no pain
  • Changes in the appearance, shape and size of the breasts with puckering or skin irritation
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple discharge of serous substances or blood
  • Nipple and / or areola eczema.

They are late signs:

  • Breast skin ulceration
  • Inflammation (red, enlarged breasts, with edema, hot)
  • Swelling of the axillary lymph nodes


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