Breast cancer is now among the most common cancers in many Asian countries. The incidence of breast cancer in parts of Asia is rising sharply and catching up with rates in the western world. Although the incidence is still low in comparison with western countries, new cases in Asia are rising at alarming rates — by around 60 percent in some parts and in Hong Kong and Shanghai – and have almost doubled over the period of 10 years. The impact is most notable among younger women between 30 and 40.
Some researchers believe the rise of breast cancer observed in Asia may be attributed in part to changes in the lifestyles of young Asian women: pursuing more stressful careers, eating more high-cholesterol foods, using oral contraceptives, and smoking, all of which may cause the development of breast cancer.
The causes of breast cancer are not fully understood. In addition to risk factors related to lifestyle, many other factors could also come into play in breast cancer causation. They include:
- A personal history of breast cancer.If women have had breast cancer in one breast, they may have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
- A family history of breast cancer.Women who have family members with breast cancer may have a greater chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Inherited genes that increase cancer risk.Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most common gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Molecular changes in these genes can greatly increase the risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don't make cancer inevitable.
- Radiation exposure.If someone received radiation treatments to their chest as a child or young adult, they are more likely to develop breast cancer later in life.
- Obesity.Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer because fat tissue produces estrogen that may help fuel certain cancers.
- Beginning menstruation at a younger age.Women whose period starts before age 12 may have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Beginning menopause at an older age.Women whose menopause begins after age 55 are at higher risk for developing breast cancer.
- Having your first child at an older age.Women who give birth to their first child after age 35 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy.Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Drinking alcohol.Drinking alcohol in excess increases the risk of breast cancer. Experts recommend no more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women.
For more information about breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment, click here.