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BCNA News 11 Dec 2018

New breast cancer risk factors and myths website

Most women will say that their breast cancer diagnosis came as a huge shock and wonder, ‘Why me?’ and ‘What does this mean for my family, my daughters?’. The reality is that while some women will be more at risk than others, any woman can develop breast cancer.

It has been long known that the risk of breast cancer increases with age and that women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer carry a higher risk. Unfortunately, there are many myths that exist around what other factors may play a part in breast cancer risk, making it hard to understand the facts from fiction.

A new, interactive breast cancer risk factors website has been developed to respond to some of the misconceptions. The website, developed by Cancer Australia, provides the latest, evidence-based information about factors that have been found to either increase or reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

The website divides 68 risk factors into a number of broad categories including personal factors, family history and genetic factors, lifestyle factors, reproductive factors, and environmental factors.  

While it won’t explain why an individual woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it is likely that everyone who has been diagnosed will identify with at least one risk factor discussed on the website. It is important to remember that one risk factor alone doesn’t cause breast cancer.

Many women will identify with a number of risk factors, but won’t develop breast cancer in their lifetime. On the other hand, someone with no known risks might still develop the disease. The good news is that some of the risks such as reducing alcohol, getting active and maintaining a healthy weight can help to not only to reduce the risk of breast cancer, but also to reduce the risk of it coming back.  

What’s unique about the website is that it also addresses information on unproven or unlikely factors that may cause breast cancer. Claims of ‘latest research’ and breakthrough findings that the media often reports can be underpinned by inconsistencies and insufficient or poor-quality evidence. The new Cancer Australia website is designed to dispel some of the inaccuracies and improve community understanding around the real risk factors for breast cancer.   

BCNA welcomes and acknowledges this credible information from which people can make informed choices and modifications to their lifestyle.

The website is underpinned by an extensive review of the evidence relating to each risk factor. The final review, Breast cancer risk factors: a review of the evidence 2018, is available on the Cancer Australia website.

Visit breastcancerriskfactors.gov.au.