Breast Cancer and Menopause
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer usually occurs in older women between the ages of 50 and 69, which is also the time of life when a woman will undergo menopause. According to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, the main reason women develop breast cancer is because their breast cells are exposed to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are linked with breast cancer and encourage the growth of (some) breast cancers.
Prior to 2000, breast cancer rates in post-menopausal women in Canada and the United States were actually increasing, which the Breast Cancer Society of Canada links to the increasing use of HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Since then, the linkage between a higher risk of breast cancer when HRT is used has been well publicized, and death rates from breast cancer have been declining.
Increased awareness, improvements in treatment, and breast screening programs (mammograms, etc.) have helped to reduce the overall rate of death from breast cancer in Canada since the 1980's. It's estimated 25,000 women in Canada and 231,840 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in 2015. The 5 year survival rate for men is 80%, and 88% for women.
Since breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women, it's important to be aware of your risk factors and take advantage of screening programs to ensure your continued good health.
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer:
- Personal and family history of breast and other cancers
- BRCA gene mutations & rare genetic conditions
- Dense breasts
- Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
- Reproductive history
- Atypical hyperplasia
Other Risk Factors
- Exposure to ionizing radiation
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Oral contraceptives
- Tall adult height
There have also been linkages to breast cancer and higher socio-economic status, physical inactivity, adult weight gain, smoking and second-hand smoke, birth weight, night shift work, and some benign breast conditions.
There is no significant evidence that antipersperants, deodorants, abortion, breast implants and bras have any linkage to breast cancer.