Breast cancer risks: Not just about family patterns

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A study of 6,322 post-menopausal women undertaken by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) Allegheny Center, in Pittsburgh, shows that while family history is a strong indicator of breast cancer risk, other factors taken together may be equally strong predictors. Among these factors are age, early age at first menstruation (menarche) and late menopause, lack of full-term pregnancies, obesity at and after menopause and excessive drinking.

200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. The overwhelming majority are among women. These represent one of every four cancer cases diagnosed among women.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross says, “Many women have the idea that family history is the main determinant of breast cancer. It’s important that they understand that it’s just one of the indicators of risk. Women can find out if they are at increased risk by using the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, which is offered online. If they are, they may then wish to discuss with their doctor the possibility of taking a drug to reduce their risk.” Among the drugs for this on the market, he notes, are Lilly’s Evista (raloxifene) and the generic Tamoxifen.