Sunday, July 5, 2020

Neither bras nor caffeine cause breast cancer

Article details risk factors for breast cancer while outlining preventive measures and dispelling myths

Are the causes of breast cancer known?

No, according to a feature story by Dr. Lizellen La Follette in the Marin Independent Journal that I've kept around quite a while because it's a good summary.

Both the article and its headline note, however, that although the roots of breast cancer aren't clear, the risk factors are.
Dr. Lizellen La Follette
La Follette details those factors: gender (being a woman); age ("two out of three with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55"); family, personal health, menstrual and reproductive histories; dense breast tissue; radiation to the chest; genetic changes; poor diet and alcohol consumption; obesity; lack of physical activity; smoking; and exposure to DES, a medication to prevent miscarriage that was heavily prescribed from the '40s through the '60s. 

Also, looking for dimpling or puckering of the breast, inversion of the nipple, redness or scaliness of the breast skin or nipple/areola area, or discharge of secretions from the nipple.

La Follette also dispels some myths about the disease — including the biggie, that it's contagious. It's not.

Other myths include that the disease can be caused "by wearing underwire bras, implants, deodorants, antiperspirants, mammograms, caffeine, plastic food serving items, microwaves or cellphones."

The article also suggests what women can do as prevention: having monthly breast cancer exams, checking for changes in breast tissue (such as in size), and feeling a palpable lump.

As for the risks, La Follette writes that a woman's "risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed" with it — "and her risk increases if a relative was diagnosed before the age of 50."

Furthermore, she notes, "studies show about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers can be linked to one mutations inherited from one's mother or father."

Regarding smoking, the columnist contends that smoking is a danger "particularly when it's long-term, heavy and among those who started before their first pregnancy." Meanwhile, the risk "is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women, and two times higher in obese women than in lean women." 

In addition, La Follette maintains that "numerous studies confirm on average alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 7 to 10 percent for each drink consumed," and she writes that "women who have two to three alcoholic drinks a day have a 20 percent higher risk…compared with non-drinkers."

Finally, she postures that "early menstruation (before age 12), mate menopause (after 55), having first child at older age or never having given birth can be risk factors."

La Follette also takes a moment to mention males, citing statistics that while the average man's lifetime risk is about 1 in 1,000, African-American men "are hit harder by breast cancer than their white counterparts and after diagnosis are three times more likely to die" from it than white men.

To learn more about other causes of the disease, get a copy of  "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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