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Scientists identify avoidable breast cancer risk factors
Date:1/18/2011

Many risk factors for breast cancer are well studied and documented. Thus, scientists are sure by now that early first menstrual period, late onset of menopause and a family history of breast cancer are associated with an increased breast cancer risk.

However, neither an individual woman nor medicine can influence whether family members develop breast cancer or at what age menopause starts - these are risk factors on which we have no influence. Scientists of the German Cancer Research Center in the team of Associate Professor (PD) Dr. Karen Steindorf and Professor Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude, jointly with Professor Dr. Dieter Flesch-Janys of Hamburg Eppendorf University Hospitals, have been searching for risk factors which can be influenced by changes in lifestyle and behavior.

"58,000 women in Germany are diagnosed with breast cancer each year," says Jenny Chang-Claude."Therefore, a key question is whether there are behavioral changes that might help to lower the disease risk. Our study aims to determine the percentage of cases where these avoidable risk factors are responsible."

The researchers focused on aspects such as taking hormones for relief of menopausal symptoms (hormone replacement therapy), physical activity, overweight and alcohol consumption. All these lifestyle factors have been identified in prior studies as possible risk factors for the development of breast cancer.

In their current MARIE study, which is supported by Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid), the epidemiologists studied 6,386 female controls along with 3,074 patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer after the onset of menopause. On the basis of these data, the scientists calculated the percentage of cancer cases that is attributable to a particular risk factor (or a particular combination of several risk factors).

Of the modifiable lifestyle factors, it is primarily hormone replacement therapy and a lack of physical activity whi
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Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstaedt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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