October is a month reserved for Breast Cancer Awareness. This disease is most likely to strike one in eight American women during her lifetime. Even though family history of the disease and obesity are known breast cancer risks, there are others that include your daily habits.
Top 5 behaviors and habits that increase breast cancer
The link is simple – the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests that women who have two to five drinks a day increase their risk of breast cancer by about 1 and a half percent compared to women who do not drink alcohol.
The Susan G Koman Foundation, an international breast cancer awareness organization, warns that alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen, which can cause estrogen levels in her blood to rise. According to a past research, higher estrogen levels play a major role in the development of breast cancer, although the exact reason is not completely clear.
- Having children later in life (or not at all)
The American Cancer Society suggests that having children after 30, or not having children at all, can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, pregnancy decreases the number of menstrual cycles a woman has in her lifetime, therefore reducing her total cumulation of estrogen.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with the age at which women have their first child. Moreover, the more children a woman has, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer.
- Not breastfeeding
This link is not very clear, but according to researchers, breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society suggests that the longer women breastfeed, the more the risk is lowered.
The risk in this case is once again connected with the amount of estrogen in a woman’s body. Breastfeeding decreases the overall number of menstrual cycles a woman will have in a lifetime, meaning the situation is similar as with the pregnancy.
- Birth control
Most of the time, oral birth control is safe, but forms have been found to increase a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society warns that Depo-Provera, an injectable form of progesterone that’s given once every 3 months as birth control, may increase breast cancer risk. Yet, the site reported that there is no increased risk in women 5 years after they stop getting the shots.
Furthermore, according to studies, women who use oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them, but once again this risk seems to end once women stop using the pill.
- Night work
Even though for some people night shifts are a must in order to earn money, researches warn that women who work at night could have an increased breast cancer risk. Once again, this risk increase seems to be hormonal.
According to the Breast Cancer Fund, the cause could lie in the changes in levels of melatonin, a hormone that’s affected by the body’s exposure to light. According to the research, normal high levels of melatonin at night are crucial for regulation of a number of natural hormones, including estrogen. This cause is still being studied.