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29 Sep 2023


What makes you susceptible to breast cancer?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to educate and raise awareness around early diagnosis. We will be running a series of blogs across the month, this first one looks at what makes you susceptible to breast cancer.

In the UK, there are around 56,000 new cases of breast cancer every year: that’s over 150 cases every day.

There are different types of breast cancer and your risk of getting it is dependent on many factors. Some are related to your genes; others depend on how you grew up, your environment and how you live your life now.

You can help yourself by adopting a healthy diet or changing your lifestyle, to give yourself the greatest protection possible.

What can make someone susceptible to breast cancer?

There are many different factors that can make someone more susceptible to having breast cancer. These include:

Your anatomy

  • Being a woman – Women have more breast tissue that is susceptible to breast cancer and higher lifetime exposure to oestrogens, which can stimulate cell division and promote the growth of certain types of breast tumours.
  • Age –One of the most significant risk factors for both female and male breast cancer. As you age, mutations happen in your cells, including those that increase your risk of cancers.
  • Medical history – If you have a history of certain types of benign breast disease or a previous breast cancer diagnosis it means you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • High breast density – Breast density is identified by a mammogram and is something that is partly genetic and partly influenced by the environment and changes over a lifetime.
  • Periods – Starting your periods early (before 12) or reaching menopause late (after 55) are factors that contribute to a higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Height – Being tall can make you more susceptible due to higher levels of growth hormones during early development.
  • Birth Weight – A birth weight above 4kg and a large early body size before the age of 18 means you are at an increased lifetime risk.
  • Hormones – Having higher levels of naturally circulating sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) increases breast cancer risk.

Your lifestyle

  • Children – Having children after the age of 30 or having no children puts you at greater risk of breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding – The longer you breastfeed the more your risk is decreased.
  • Weight – Being overweight and adult weight gain are well-recognised risk factors for breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
  • Alcohol – Drinking alcohol increases your risk; this is thought to be because alcohol can raise the concentration of circulating oestrogens and alcohol is broken down in breast tissue to produce by-products which may damage DNA.
  • Melatonin – Shift work or exposure to light at night may increase breast cancer risk as both may be responsible for decreased production of melatonin, a hormone protective against breast cancer.
  • Smoking – Especially if you begin at an early age.
  • Medication – Use of the contraceptive pill and implants can increase the risk of breast cancer slightly. The longer the duration of use, the higher the risk. Hormone replacement therapy also carries an increased risk.

Your Family

It is well known that a family history of breast cancer is relevant, but as breast cancer is common, having a relative with the disease doesn’t necessarily indicate you have a genetic predisposition.

How we can help?

If you, or a loved one, have suffered due to late diagnosis or poor treatment surrounding breast cancer care, our Clinical Negligence team are here to help.

Contact us today for an informal discussion around your circumstances.

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