What causes breast cancer?

The causes of breast cancer remain unknown. Despite this, there are several risk factors that all patients should be aware of:

  1. Sex and age - Breast cancer affects mostly women, and occurs 100 times more often in females rather than males. Age is also a risk factor for breast cancer, especially from 40 to 60 years of age.
  2. Family history - Women who have other close family members (mother, sister, aunt) who have suffered from breast cancer, have a higher probability of developing breast cancer. If a woman has suffered from cancer in one of her breasts, the probability for her to develop cancer in her other breast increases, and if she develops cancer in both of her breasts, the probability for her to develop ovarian cancer increases.
    Having previously suffered from breast cancer.
  3. Weight: being overweight or obese also pose risks for breast cancer.
  4. Chronic consumption of alcohol.
  5. Hormonal imbalances - Clinical and experimental oncology have managed to provide with enough evidence to prove that the development of mammary cancer is linked to the trafficking and secretion of sex hormones. In earlier stages of life, no changes occur in the mammary glands until the onset of the menopausal stage in women. This is a stage where various changes concerning the menstrual cycle occur.
    The majority of these changes have to do with the balance of different hormones involved in regulating menstruation and other processes. Some of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, may lead to dystrophic or neoplastic changes of the mammary glands.
    High levels of estrogen (female sexual hormone) may become a cause for the excess proliferation of the glandular tissue. If this tissue does not manage to cause lactation, it may cause a tumor of the breast instead. Hormonal factors hold a very strong correlation to the development of tumors of the mammary gland.
  6. Giving birth and breastfeeding: There is evidence evidence that women who have given birth are less likely than those who have. Women who have given birth to more children are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who have given birth to fewer children. Women who have not breast fed their children, or stopped breast feeding too early, are also more likely to develop this type of cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 25 Oct 2017
Medical Author: Dr. med. Diana Hysi