Dr.K.Shantha Breast Cancer Foundation, Trichy (SBCF)

About Breast Cancer

Risk Factors & Protecting Yourself

Gender

Being female and having breasts is the highest risk factor. However, 1% of breast cancer occurs in males.


Age

A woman’s risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. As women get older, it becomes more likely that abnormal changes will take place in their cells. Breast cancer is more common in women aged 40 and above. However, women as young as in their early twenties have been diagnosed with breast cancer in Singapore.


Family History

If your mother, sister or daughter has or had breast cancer, you are at higher risk for developing it yourself. Family history of breast cancer can be due to factors such as lifestyle or associated with specific genetic mutations. So far, researchers have found two genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – that, if defective, can increase susceptibility for the disease.


Hormones 

If you begin to menstruate early (before 12), menopause late (after age 55), have your first child after age 30 or have no children at all, you are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. These factors are believed to be linked to the female hormone oestrogen. Breast cancer has also been associated with the prolonged use (5 years or more) of oestrogen replacement therapy after menopause.


Diet

Several studies have suggested that eating a diet high in fat may increase the risk of breast cancer; while others have not found this to be so. However, it is still best to limit fat intake as a high-fat diet can result in other cancers and heart disease. In addition, chemicals called phytoestrogens (plant hormones), found in a variety of vegetables and soya, may protect against developing breast cancer as well as slow down its growth.


Lack of Physical Activity

Exercise may lower breast cancer risk by delaying the onset of menstruation, reducing the frequency of regular periods and helping to maintain a healthy weight. Each of these can help decrease the total amount of oestrogen a woman is exposed to in her lifetime. Low to moderate levels of physical activity may enhance the immune system's ability to kill cancer cells or slow their growth rate.


Alcohol

Several studies link alcohol intake on a regular basis with an increased risk of breast cancer. Alcohol may increase risk by altering the way a woman’s body metabolises oestrogen. This may cause blood oestrogen levels to rise, which may in turn increase the risk of breast cancer.


Previous History of Breast Cancer and Benign Breast Disease 

Women who have had breast cancer or benign breast disease such as hyperplasia have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Four in five women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors. So it is important to know how to protect yourself and reduce your risk of getting the disease.

Protect Yourself Against Breast Cancer
  1. Practice a healthy lifestyle.
    • Be physically active. Exercise 3 – 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in fats with an emphasis on good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) over bad fats (saturated and trans fats).
    • Limit alcohol intake to less than one alcoholic drink a day.
    • Breastfeed children instead of formula feeding them (if possible).
  2. Be aware of breast cancer and its symptoms.
  3.  Screen yourself for breast cancer regularly.

Early detection offers more treatment options and a better chance of survival and recovery. Take charge of your own breast health and detect changes in your breast through:

  • Breast Self Examination
  • Clinical Breast Examination (by a healthcare professional)
  • Mammography

Never be afraid to examine your breasts or to have them examined. Finding out that you do not have breast cancer is more important than the time and effort required for an examination, or any discomfort you may feel.

SBCF Trichy