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Female Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease where cancerous cells grow and form a tumor in the female breast. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women. Breast cancer can occur in males, but is very rare. Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. females, behind lung cancer. Breast cancer can occur at any age, but is rarely diagnosed prior to age 20. The majority of breast cancer cases occur in women over age 50. Although there is no proven method for preventing breast cancer, screening mammography can detect breast cancer in any early stage when treatment is effective.
Breast cancer is the most common type of internal cancer diagnosed in women, both in New Mexico and the U.S. Like other forms of cancer, breast cancer is thought to result from multiple environmental and heredity risk factors, with the exact cause of any individual breast cancer most often unknowable. The majority of breast cancers occur after age 50 years, and screening for early stage disease has been shown to be effective in reducing breast cancer mortality in this age group. Screening efficiency in women under age 50 years is less clear since it appears that disease in younger women differs from that in older women, often being more aggressive and more likely to involve hereditary factors.
Breast cancer is mainly a disease of older women. Although it can be diagnosed at any age, it rarely is seen prior to age 20. Most breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50 years. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed each year in U.S. women. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer sometime during her life. Breast cancer is diagnosed more frequently in Whites than in persons of other race.
Scientists have found a number of risk factors that increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Known risk factors include:
  • Certain genetic mutations.
  • Family history of breast cancer.
  • Older age.
  • White race.
  • Obesity (after menopause).
  • Dense breast tissue (after menopause).
  • High estrogen levels.
  • Early age at menstruation.
  • Postponing having children or first pregnancy at an older age.
  • Having no or few children.
  • Late age at menopause.
  • Post-menopausal hormone use.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Second-hand cigarette smoke.
  • Current or recent use of birth control pills.
  • Low levels of physical activity.
  • No breast feeding or short duration of breast feeding.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, especially during childhood and adolescence.
You can learn about known and probable carcinogens from Known and Probable Human Carcinogens at (external site).
There are no proven methods that guarantee prevention of breast cancer. Surgical removal of one or both breasts has been used as a means of prevention in the minority of women at very high risk for breast cancer due to genetic conditions. For most women, however, there are no steps that can be taken to ensure that breast cancer will not develop. Because of this, much effort goes into early detection of breast cancer in order to catch the disease at its earliest stages when treatment is most effective. Mammograms, breast self-examination, and examination of your breasts by your health care provider increase the chances that breast cancer will be diagnosed early. All women should discuss their risk and screening or prevention options with their health care provider.
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Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:03 MDT