Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Are You At Higher Risk If It Runs In The Family?

Breast cancer is one of the most common and deadly cancers in women, followed by cervical cancer. According to a report by the National Center for Disease Informatics and Research, they accounted for 39.4 per cent of all cancer cases in 2020. As such, it becomes imperative to know more about this deadly disease and its many risk factors. But before delving deeper into this, it should be noted that while there are many risk factors that often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause it.

“Yes, cancer develops in people with no known risk factors, whereas in many with many risk factors it never happens,” said Dr. T. Sujeeth, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, American Oncology Institute, Coimbatore. However, it is always necessary to know the risk factors as it can help one to make more informed lifestyle and health related choices. “Family history is one of the common contributors to an increased risk of breast cancer,” he said.

About 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary and are caused by inherited mutations in the BRCA1 (breast cancer gene one) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene two) genes that are passed from parents to children. Normally, these genes help make proteins that repair damaged DNA in normal cells. However, mutated versions of these genes can cause abnormal cell growth that can result in cancer, the expert explained.

Family history is one of the common contributors to an increased risk of breast cancer. (Photo: Pixels)

“BRCA and other mutations can be inherited from both father and mother. If a first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter, has breast cancer, the risk is almost doubled, and the risk is almost doubled if there are 2 first-degree relatives.” The risk increases by about 3 times. If multiple family members, either on the mother’s or the father’s side, have breast cancer, the risk is further increased. Therefore there should be a detailed evaluation of the medical history including both sides of the family.” Dr Sujit explained.

While breast cancer is thought to be more common in women, men with BRCA 1 and 2 mutations are more likely to develop breast cancer than other men. It is always better to know the family health history to prevent breast or any other cancer, or to detect when it is more treatable. “With these gene mutations, the risk of developing other types of cancer also increases, including acute myeloid lymphoma, fallopian tube cancer and pancreatic cancer. Breast density and BMI are some of the important factors that affect breast cancer risk. and are shown as family groups. This may be due to both the similarity of lifestyle and genetic inheritance among family members,” he explained.


According to experts, the factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include sedentary lifestyle, increased smoking and alcohol consumption in women, environmental exposures, exogenous hormone factors (use of hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives), menstrual factors (early ) can be included. Age at menarche and late age at menopause), reproductive factors (late delivery, disability), excessive consumption of aerated drinks and fast food, obesity and lack of physical exercise.


Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are some things that help reduce the risk. One of the most important things is early detection which is the key to preventing breast cancer-related deaths. “Self-breast exams help detect any abnormalities such as a lump or swelling around the breast, collarbone or armpit. Routine mammograms will help detect tumors that are extremely small and result in a diagnosis at stage zero. is, ”suggested the expert.

Additional lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and alcohol will help reduce the risk of breast cancer. “Other preventive measures such as daily exercise or work, maintaining an optimal weight, consuming a balanced diet and avoiding junk food will help prevent breast cancer. It is always advisable to discuss with the doctor about the contraceptive options and the risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy,” Dr Sujit said.

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