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The Risk Riddle: Why Do Younger Women Develop Breast Cancer?

Women in their 30s are much less likely to develop breast cancer than are women in their 60s 1. Still, some women develop the disease at a young age. If you are one of these young women with breast cancer, you may be wondering, "Why me?"

Because breast cancer develops for many of the same reasons in both young and older women, it is difficult to pinpoint why it sometimes strikes young women. Several different factors contribute to its development, and many more are being discovered all the time. Some breast cancer risk factors include:

• Genetic predisposition: Approximately 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are a result of genetic mutations, most commonly in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women with these mutations often develop breast cancer at a younger age.

• Atypical hyperplasia (A benign – noncancerous – condition in which cells look abnormal under a microscope and are increased in number): This condition increases a woman's risk of developing cancer by between 4 or 5 times.

• Previous radiation: Radiation on the chest for a previous cancer, such as during childhood, significantly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer (some reports say by 12 times).

• Menstrual periods: Women who began menstruating early (before age 12) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. The same is true for women who go through menopause at a late age (after age 55).

• Obesity: Being overweight has been a breast cancer risk factor in some clinical studies. Fat tissue produces a small amount of estrogen, which can make your estrogen levels higher. This can promote tumor growth.

• Alcohol use: Excessive alcohol intake has been clearly linked to breast cancer, with women who drink two to five drinks a day having approximately 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer relative to women who drink no alcohol.

• Physical activity: While this one is still up for debate, evidence is mounting that women who engage in moderate exercise have their risk of developing cancer reduced by 18 percent or more.

The exact role of these factors in the development of breast cancer in young women is unclear, as cancer is often a culmination of several risk factors. If you were diagnosed at a young age, remember that you were not singled out.

Breast Cancer Prevention: The Big Picture

While scientists are still seeking ways for women to prevent cancer, no sure-fire method of breast cancer prevention has been found. Women with certain risk factors may not ever develop breast cancer; conversely, many women with breast cancer may have no obvious risk factors.

It is important to remember that some breast cancer risk factors, such as genetic makeup, are completely out of your control. However, other risk factors, such as alcohol intake and amount of physical exercise, are in your control, so do what you can to help minimize your risk, no matter what your age!

Learn more about the risk factors that contribute to breast cancer in young women. This news service and the information presented in it have been developed and created through a content collaboration between Novartis Oncology and VerusMed, An Evolution of Faxwatch™.

Submitted by:

Novartis Ribbon Of Pink

Novartis Oncology's primary goal is to research and develop new and more effective ways to treat cancer. In doing so, we have also developed http://www.RibbonOfPink.com.




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