With the odds of breast cancer in North America being 1 in 8, prevention of breast cancer and early detection are becoming the focus of the medical community.
Breast cancer is often seen as genetic, with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations causing breast and ovarian cancers in 50-65% of its carriers. Many BRCA1 mutation carriers with family histories of female cancers bravely choose to get double mastectomies, and fallopian tubes removed to decrease their odds. But did you know that only 5% of breast cancer and 15% of ovarian cancer cases are caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations?
There are other hereditary factors to breast cancer that are not as clearly understood as the BRCA mutation. Women with a family history of breast cancer without the mutation still have double the chance of developing breast cancer themselves. But even so, only 15% of women with breast cancer have a family history with or without the BRCA gene mutation.
So what causes the other 85-95% of breast cancer cases? Environmental factors could play a major part.
Most of the time factors that increase the odds of various cancers seem pretty clear. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer, sun exposure increases risk of skin cancer, but what increases your risk of breast cancer?
While there are some physical factors you have little to know control over, like number of menstrual cycles in your lifetime, and dense breast tissue, there are environmental factors that will surprise you.
The Silent Spring Institute, a 20 year old breast cancer research group in Massachusetts has been compiling studies to look at chemical exposure that increases chances of breast cancer. Together with The Harvard School of Public Health, Silent Spring Institute put out a study last month accessing environmental causes of non-genetic breast cancer. The study identified 102 chemicals linked to mammary tumours in mice. From there, they prioritized 17 chemicals humans are more commonly exposed to and put out seven recommendations on how to limit exposure.
Their recommendations to help prevent non-genetic breast cancer are:
As with all cancers early detection is vital. Regular self-exams, clinical breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds and MRIs all help screen for breast cancer. Talk to your doctor to figure out what is best for you.