Understanding Breast Cancer
by: Dr. Rita Louise
Our body is made up thousands of cells that differ in size, shape and function. Con trolled by our DNA, each cell is programmed to perform certain tasks and after a specified period of time – die. This is normally done in an orderly manner. Howev er, if our cells are exposed to carcinogens, viruses or ionizing radiation, for example, the DNA can become damaged creating havoc with this once orderly process. Said a nother way, if the rate of new cell growth in the body overcomes the rate of cell death, tumors can develop. If thes e cells invade and destroy surrounding normal tissues, the abnormal cell growth is considered to be cancerous.
In the US, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 30 and 50. Rarely di agnosed before a woman reaches 25, the number of incidents rises with age, peaking at menopause and decreasing once menopause had passed. About 182, 000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and about 40% of those diagnosed die within 10 years. Scientists believe these numbers are increasing.
Overwh elming evidence into the cause of breast cancer suggests the female hormone estrogen plays a central role in this disease. Studies indic ate that estrogen stimulates the cells of the breast to form cancerous cells. Thus a prolong ed uninterrupted presence of high estrogen levels in the body may predispose a woman to breast cancer.
These stu dies also indicate the less time a woman is exposed to her own reproductive hormones, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer is. This includes wo men who enter menses at a later age as well as women who enter menopause, both naturally and artificially, before the age of 45. Pregnancy, breast feeding, physical activity, a low fat, high fiber diet also helps to reduce the amount of estrogen flowing through the body.
Additional r isk factors for developing breast cancer include a family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sis ter or aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, it may indicate a genetic predisposition to this disease. Women who have not h ad children or women who did not have their first child until after the age of 30 have been identified as having a two to five times greater risk. Women who take birth control pill or utilize estrogen replacement therapy after menopause are also at a greater risk. Other factors that can increase your chances of getting breast cancer include: weight, dietary fat intake, alcohol consumption, dietary deficiencies and certain types of fibrocystic breast disease.
Recommendations F or Wellness
Do monthly breast self-examination. If you don