In medical terms, breast cancer refers to a malignant tumor whose growth begins in the breast cells. Malignancy of tumors refers to that bunch of cancerous cells in the breast that are capable of not only growing in the specific cells, but also have the ability to invade the surrounding tissue and metastasize or spread to distant parts of the body. However, most often, breast cancer lumps are benign. This means that they are not cancerous or in other words cannot spread to other areas in the body.
Although this disease is known to affect women, there have been a few instances when men have also contracted it. Typical symptoms of breast cancer, which are used for its diagnosis, include the presence of lumps in the breast that cause swelling, tenderness and pain in the female organ. Usually, the pain in the breast tends to increase when the woman’s menstrual cycle is about to begin. In addition to the breast feeling lumpy, sometimes there could be a clear or somewhat cloudy discharge from the nipple of the breasts indicating the presence of cancer cells.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Risk factors for breast cancer can be classified as modifiable and non-modifiable. The non-modifiable risk factors include genetics, gender, aging, family history, higher density of the breast tissue and longer duration of menstrual cycle. Inheritance of a gene defect from family members or the occurrence of the disease in blood relatives puts women at greater risk for breast cancer. Owing to their body structure, women are more predisposed to the disease, whereas for men the risk is about 100 times less. The risk for breast cancer increases drastically in women above the age of 55 years as they no longer have the protection that estrogen confers against such diseases. A longer duration of menstrual cycle, i.e. where periods began early but ended late also predisposes women to the disease. Also, a denser breast tissue with less fatty tissue increases the chances of women contracting breast cancer.
Among the modifiable risk factors of breast cancer, the most important one is bearing children. Several pregnancies before the age of 30 greatly reduces the risk for breast cancer. Additionally, women who regularly take oral contraceptives or undergo hormone therapy post menopause, avoid breast feeding, are alcoholic, overweight or obese and carry out very little physical activity significantly increase their chances of contracting the disease.
Decreasing Modifiable Breast Cancer Risk Factors
The best way to decrease the risk for breast cancer would be to address the modifiable risk factors and change them for the better. First and foremost, women must eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that should include plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Consuming around 2-3 servings of vegetables and fruits per day is recommended. Eating less red meat and more fish is another dietary change that must be made.