At a biological level, breast cancer is caused by changes in DNA. As your cells replace themselves, some of them might reproduce imperfectly, and these imperfect cells can become cancerous. The cause of cell mutation may be mostly genetic, but there are environmental and lifestyle factors that can and do influence if and when breast cancer develops. Knowing the different factors that can encourage cancer cells in your body can help you make healthier decisions to combat the biological causes of many types of cancers and illnesses, including breast cancer.
Doctors and research scientists know that certain genes increase one’s risk of getting breast cancer. The easiest and least expensive way to determine if your genes could be the cause of breast cancer is to know your family medical history. If you have several women or men in your family who have battled the disease, then there is a greater need for you to be observant and cautious with your own health. Being in a high risk category does not mean that you absolutely will get breast cancer, but it is important to know what your risks are so you can make the types of lifestyle decisions that will decrease the effects of genetic causes and minimize environmental factors.
There isn’t much that you can do about your genetics other than vigilantly look for early symptoms and make smart choices. There are several lifestyle causes of breast cancer, though, which you can control directly. It is important to remember that unhealthy choices don’t cause breast cancer–they just increase your chances of getting the disease.
Recent research has shown that women who consume more than two servings of alcohol per day have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. Some studies indicate that some women and men experience health benefits from one or two servings per day (depending on the person’s size and sex), but these benefits quickly disappear when more than two drinks are consumed. This is especially true for women who have a family history of the disease.
Being obese or overweight also increases your chances of getting breast cancer. Leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating a diet that is high in fat increase your risk, but can be easily modified through simple lifestyle changes. You can lose weight, and therefore decrease your risk of getting breast cancer, by eating a low-fat diet and exercising regularly. Those who don’t like going to the gym can get health benefits from simple activities like taking walks in the park, cutting grass, or joining a group of friends who enjoy recreational sports.
Scientists are learning more about the causes of breast cancer every day. While the current research indicates several ways for women and men to keep their breast cancer risks low, there are certainly many more advances in research to come. Visit your doctor regularly and stay informed about the ways you can avoid many of the causes of breast cancer.