What really raises the risk of breast cancer?

Breast cancer is soaring, with as many as one in nine women affected by the devastating disease. The blame lies partly with Western lifestyle, scientists from the World Cancer Research Fund reported.
A glass a day keeps breast cancer away.
A glass a day keeps breast cancer away.

Breast cancer is soaring, with as many as one in nine women affected by the devastating disease. The blame lies partly with Western lifestyle, scientists from the World Cancer Research Fund reported.

Eating and drinking too much and taking too little exercise are key risk factors. Like other forms of the disease, breast cancer occurs when cells grow or divide at a faster rate than normal.

In some cases, there is a genetic link: women who have inherited the faulty BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes have an increased lifetime risk. (The normal versions of these genes help prevent uncontrolled cell growth.)

Cell malfunction may also be triggered by environmental factors and changes in levels of hormones such as oestrogen.

Many of the risk factors are based on the idea that hormones are to blame. But with new risk factors emerging all the time, the difficulty is knowing which to take seriously and which to disregard.

ALCOHOL

Theory:

Numerous studies show that even moderate alcohol consumption can cause a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.

The more you regularly drink, the higher your chance of getting breast cancer at some point in your life. The theory is that alcohol changes the levels of hormones in the body, boosting oestrogen, which is known to stimulate the growth of breast cancers. 

Studies show that compared with non-drinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk (up by 10.6 per cent).

Women drinking more than two units of alcohol per day have about 1½ times the risk of women who drink fewer than two units per week.

Expert Comment:

Studies have clearly shown that alcohol causes cancer, and breast cancer especially. Even small amounts can have an impact. Cutting back on alcohol intake is one of the best ways of reducing your risk.

Evidence for Link: STRONG

Ends

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