What Environmental Factors Are Linked To Breast Cancer
A growing body of evidence from experimental, body burden and ecological research indicates that there is a connection between environmental factors and breast cancer. There are over 85,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today, from preservatives in our lipstick to flame retardants in our sofas, from plasticizers in our water bottles to pesticides on our fruits and vegetables. The U.S. government has no adequate chemical regulation policy, therefore companies are allowed to manufacture and use chemicals without ever establishing their safety. As the use of chemicals has risen in the U.S. and other industrialized countries, so have rates of breast and other cancers.
Here are some key facts you should know about the environment and breast cancer:
Not enough research is being done on environmental links to breast cancer and other cancers and BCA is working to change this. As we pursue the research that will lead to even more definitive answers, we can and should reduce our exposure to substances we believe cause cancer by using the precautionary principle of public health.
Breast Cancer Survival Rate
Breast cancer survival rates vary widely based on many factors.
Two of the most important factors are the type of cancer you have and the stage of the cancer at the time you receive a diagnosis. Other factors that may play a role include:
- your age
shows theres a higher mortality rate in People of Color with breast cancer diagnoses compared with white people. One reason for this may be healthcare disparities.
The good news is breast cancer survival rates are improving.
According to the ACS , in 1975, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer in women was 75.2 percent. But for women diagnosed between 2008 and 2014, it was 90.6 percent.
The 5-year survival rates for breast cancer differ depending on the stage at diagnosis. They range from 99 percent for localized early stage cancers to 27 percent for advanced metastatic cancers.
What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer originates in your breast tissue. It occurs when breast cells mutate and grow out of control, creating a mass of tissue . Like other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding your breast. It can also travel to other parts of your body and form new tumors. When this happens, its called metastasis.
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Read A Brief Summary Of This Topic
breast cancer, disease characterized by the growth of malignant cells in the mammary glands. Breast cancer can strike males and females, although women are about 100 times more likely to develop the disease than men. Most cancers in female breasts form shortly before, during, or after menopause, with three-quarters of all cases being diagnosed after age 50. Generally, the older a woman is, the greater is her likelihood of developing breast cancer.
In the 20th and early 21st centuries, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide. By 2012, however, that remained true only in less-developed countries. In high-income countries, lung cancer had overtaken breast cancer as the leading cause of death from cancer in women.
What Are The Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer symptoms can vary for each person. Possible signs of breast cancer include:
- A change in the size, shape or contour of your breast.
- A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea.
- A lump or thickening in or near your breast or in your underarm that persists through your menstrual cycle.
- A change in the look or feel of your skin on your breast or nipple .
- Redness of your skin on your breast or nipple.
- An area thats distinctly different from any other area on either breast.
- A marble-like hardened area under your skin.
- A blood-stained or clear fluid discharge from your nipple.
Some people dont notice any signs of breast cancer at all. Thats why routine mammograms and are so important.
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Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
There are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting breast cancer. However, having any of these doesnt mean you will definitely develop the disease.
Some risk factors cant be avoided, such as family history. You can change other risk factors, such as smoking. Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Age. Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you age. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women over 55 years old.
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol use disorder raises your risk.
- Having dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue makes mammograms hard to read. It also increases your risk of breast cancer.
- Gender. According to the
While there are risk factors you cant control, following a healthy lifestyle, getting regular screenings, and taking any preventive measures your doctor recommends can help lower your risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Gene Mutation
Mutations in two separate genes for breast cancer have been identified. Fewer than 1% of women have these gene mutations. About 5 to 10% of women with breast cancer have one of these gene mutations. If a woman has one of these mutations, her lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 50 to 85%. The risk of developing breast cancer by age 80 is about 72% with a BRCA1 mutation and about 69% with a BRCA2 mutation. However, if such a woman develops breast cancer, her chances of dying of breast cancer are not necessarily greater than those of any other woman with breast cancer.
These mutations are most common among Ashkenazi Jews.
Women likely to have one of these mutations are those who have at least two close, usually first-degree relatives who have had breast or ovarian cancer. For this reason, routine screening for these mutations does not appear necessary, except in women who have such a family history.
Types Of Breast Lumps That Teens Can Get
The most common type of breast cancer found in teens is secretory adenocarcinoma. This is generally a slow growing, nonaggressive cancer.
Though theres little chance of this type of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, spread to local lymph nodes has been noted in a few cases.
Most breast lumps in teenage girls are fibroadenomas, which are noncancerous. An overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast causes fibroadenomas.
The lump is usually hard and rubbery, and you can move it around with your fingers. Fibroadenomas account for 91 percent of all solid breast masses in girls younger than 19 years old.
Other less common breast lumps in teens include cysts, which are noncancerous fluid-filled sacs.
Banging or injuring breast tissue, possibly during a fall or while playing sports, can also cause lumps.
If you feel anything unusual in your breast, see your doctor. They will ask:
- about your familys medical history
- when you discovered the lump
- if theres nipple discharge
- if the lump hurts
If anything looks or feels suspicious, your doctor will have you undergo an ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to see into your breasts. It can help determine whether a lump is solid, which is an indication of cancer.
If its fluid-filled, that will most likely indicate a cyst. Your doctor may also insert a fine needle into the lump to draw out tissue and test it for cancer.
Mammography: Screening For Breast Cancer
Breast tomosynthesis may be used with mammography to produce a clear, highly focused 3-dimensional picture of the breast. This technique makes it somewhat easier to detect cancer, especially in women with dense breast tissue. However, this type of mammography exposes women to more radiation as traditional mammography.
Recommendations for routine screening with mammography vary. Experts disagree about
When it should start
If changes in the breast are detected during a physical examination, ultrasonography is usually done. If results are inconclusive, mammography is done.
Mammography can also help identify tissue that should be removed and examined under a microscope .
Ultrasonography is sometimes used to help distinguish between a fluid-filled sac Breast cysts are common. In some women, cysts develop frequently, sometimes… read more ) and a solid lump. This distinction is important because cysts are usually not cancerous. Cysts may be monitored or drained with a small needle and syringe. The fluid from the cyst is examined to check for cancer cells only if any of the following occurs:
The fluid is bloody or cloudy.
Little fluid is obtained.
The lump remains after it is drained.
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What Increases Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
Factors that can elevate risk breast cancer risk include:
- A personal or family history of breast cancer, including DCIS and LCIS
- Inherited genetic predispositions, most commonly with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations
- Elevated lifetime estrogen exposure, including:
- Early onset of menstruation
- Late-onset of menopause
- Older age of first childbirth or never having given birth
- Taking estrogen and progesterone after menopause
How Can I Be Sure That My Cancer Will Be Detected Before It Has Spread
While you cant prevent breast cancer altogether, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk of discovering it at an advanced stage. For example:
- Get routine mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends having a baseline mammogram at age 35, and a screening mammogram every year after age 40.
- Examine your breasts every month after age 20. Youll become familiar with the contours and feel of your breasts and will be more alert to changes.
- Have your breasts examined by a healthcare provider at least once every three years after age 20, and every year after age 40. Clinical breast exams can detect lumps that mammograms may not find.
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Are Birth Control Pills Linked To Breast Cancer
According to the Womens CARE study, published in June 2002, using birth control pills doesnt appear to increase a womans risk of getting breast cancer. The scope of the study didnt include women under 35 or risks associated with the growing use of oral contraceptives by women over 40. Other studies have reached the same conclusion but have found that women with a strong family history of breast cancer are at increased risk if they started using oral contraceptives before 1975. Before 1975 the pills contained a much higher dose of estrogen than they do now. A recent Canadian study also found that women with the BRCA1 gene mutation showed an increased risk of early onset of breast cancer if they started taking the pills before 1975, before age 30, or for more than five years. Remember that genetic mutations account for less than 10 percent of all breast cancer cases.
Treatment Of Cancer That Has Spread
Breast cancer that has spread beyond the lymph nodes is rarely cured, but most women who have it live at least 2 years, and a few live 10 to 20 years. Treatment extends life only slightly but may relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. However, some treatments have troublesome side effects. Thus, deciding whether to be treated and, if so, which treatment to choose can be highly personal.
Choice of therapy depends on the following:
Whether the cancer has estrogen and progesterone receptors
How long the cancer had been in remission before it spread
How many organs and how many parts of the body the cancer has spread to
Whether the woman is postmenopausal or still menstruating
If the cancer is causing symptoms , women are usually treated with chemotherapy or hormone-blocking drugs. Pain is usually treated with analgesics. Other drugs may be given to relieve other symptoms. Chemotherapy or hormone-blocking drugs are given to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Hormone-blocking drugs are preferred to chemotherapy when the cancer has the following characteristics:
The cancer is estrogen receptorpositive.
Cancer has not recurred for more than 2 years after diagnosis and initial treatment.
Cancer is not immediately life threatening.
Different hormone-blocking drugs are used in different situations:
, such as pamidronate or zoledronate, reduce bone pain and bone loss and may prevent or delay bone problems that can result when cancer spreads to bone.
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Who Is Mainly Affected By Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women, second only to skin cancer. Its most likely to affect women over the age of 50.
Though rare, men can also develop breast cancer. Approximately 2,600 men develop male breast cancer every year in the United States, making up less than 1% of all cases.
Transgender women are more likely to develop breast cancer compared to cisgender men. Additionally, transgender men are less likely to develop breast cancer compared to cisgender women.
What age does breast cancer occur?
Breast cancer is most often diagnosed in adults over the age of 50, but it can occur at any age.
What race is most affected by breast cancer?
Overall, women who are non-Hispanic white have a slightly higher chance of developing breast cancer than women of any other race or ethnicity. Women who are non-Hispanic Black are almost as likely as non-Hispanic white women to develop the disease. Statistically, women who are Asian, Hispanic or Native American are the least likely to develop breast cancer.
Risks For Breast Cancer
A risk factor is something that increases the risk of developing cancer. It could be a behaviour, substance or condition. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. But sometimes breast cancer develops in women who dont have any of the risk factors described below.
Most breast cancers occur in women. The main reason women develop breast cancer is because their breast cells are exposed to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones, especially estrogen, are linked with breast cancer and encourage the growth of some breast cancers.
Breast cancer is more common in high-income, developed countries such as Canada, the United States and some European countries. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Breast cancer mostly occurs in women between 50 and 69 years of age.
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What Is Considered High Risk For Breast Cancer
According to the CDC, you are considered high risk for breast cancer if you have:
- Strong family history of breast cancer
- Inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
These two risk factors also put you at a high risk for ovarian cancer. Speak with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risks. Options include drugs that block or decrease estrogen in your body and preventive surgery.
Expert cancer care
Who Provides Breast Cancer Treatment
A medical team may involve several different health professionals. It may include a GP, a radiologist, an oncologist, a breast care nurse, a surgeon and other allied health professionals such as counsellors and therapists. Having a multi-disciplinary team means a patient can receive the best care possible.
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How Can I Find Out About The Pollutants Being Used And Released In My Neighborhood
Thanks to the 1986 Federal Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act , industries have to reveal the amounts they release of more than 600 designated toxic chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency posts the industry data in the Toxic Release Inventory . You can use the links below to search for information about the chemicals being released in your neighborhood and community. To learn more about the connection between chemicals and breast cancer, read The State of the Evidence.
Keep in mind that the 600 chemicals that must be reported under the Right-to-Know Act represent only a small fraction of the over 85,000 chemicals on the market today. As we demand our right to know more about the chemicals were exposed to and their health affects, we can use the precautionary principle of public health to reduce and eliminate our exposure to toxic chemicals.
Breast Cancer Causes And Risk Factors
This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by
Daniel Liu, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, CTCA Chicago.
This page was reviewed on February 10, 2022.
When it comes to breast cancer risk, there are factors you cant change, like your age, race and genes. But there are others you do have control over, such as your exercise level, alcohol consumption and other lifestyle habits.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
CDCs Dr. Lisa Richardson explains the link between drinking alcoholic beverages and breast cancer risk in this video.
Studies have shown that your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors. The main factors that influence your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older.
Some women will get breast cancer even without any other risk factors that they know of. Having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease, and not all risk factors have the same effect. Most women have some risk factors, but most women do not get breast cancer. If you have breast cancer risk factors, talk with your doctor about ways you can lower your risk and about screening for breast cancer.
How Common Is Breast Cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates that a womans chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime is about 13 percent. That translates to a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. At the same time, it means there is a 7 in 8 chance that you wont develop breast cancer.
In terms of cancers that affect women, 1 in 3 are breast cancer. The ACS reports that the incidence of a woman developing breast cancer has risen by 0.5 percent per year in recent years.
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