Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Can Estrogen Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

News18
·2-min read

The month of October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The idea behind this is to spread awareness about one of the most common type of cancers to affect women. Though it was started by the American Cancer Society in the USA in 1985, the observation is now accepted by most countries.

It also happens to be one of the rare cancers that can be caught on time. However, due to a lack of awareness, many women realise it too late. Early detection is crucial in preventing breast cancer (like all forms of cancer).

Cancer can potentially happen to anyone, however, certain people are more susceptible to breast cancer. The Centre for Disease Control (USA) lists down a number of factors that can put someone at high risk. Some of these factors can be mitigated as they are choice/lifestyle related while others are not under control. The risk factor can be reduced by taking care of choice-based factors.

Unavoidable factors or internal issues:

· Age: Most breast cancers are diagnosed post the age of 50

· Genetic condition/mutation

· History of cancer in the immediate family (includes ovarian, breast, and other forms of cancer)

· Radiation therapy in the past for cancer/other treatments

Avoidable factors or external issues:

· A static lifestyle with little to no physical activity

· Consumption of liquor or smoking habit

· Obesity

· External hormone consumption/injection

· Reproductive history- late pregnancy, not breastfeeding, etc

Almost all of the external factors can contribute to hormone disturbances. According to NCBI and CDC, hormones can play an important role in cancer development as they affect cell growth. One hormone associated with breast cancer is Estrogen.

Estrogen is naturally produced in female bodies for sexual and reproductive development. However, some women need to go through external hormone replacement therapy, especially around menopause when the balance of hormones goes all awry. Most commonly, the hormones involved in such therapy are Estrogen and Progesterone.

There is evidence to prove that if taken for more than five years, it increased the risk of breast cancer. This implies that most oral contraceptive methods can also increase breast cancer risk as they contain substantial amounts of these hormones to manipulate the reproductive cycle. A study was conducted to understand this relation. It was discovered that after non-contraceptive treatment with estrogen (hormone therapy for menopause or other reasons), the long-term perimenopausal treatment with estrogens (contraceptive purposes) was slightly higher at risk. The researchers inferred from the study that this might be because hormones increase breast cell growth. Any cancer is basically an uncontrollable cell-growth that keeps on dividing without any stopping mechanism.

As a result, overexposure to these hormones may lead to healthy cell mutation into ever-growing cancer cells.