Hormone use and physical inactivity targeted as easily modifiable risks

January 24, 2011

There are several risk factors for breast cancer that can't be modified (changed)—family history, for example. German researchers believe they've now identified two of the more important breast cancer risk factors that women can modify.

To make this determination, over 3,000 women with postmenopausal invasive breast cancer were surveyed for health information including modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Their responses were compared to over 6,300 women without breast cancer.

As expected, the analysis showed that non-modifiable risks like family history of breast cancer, benign breast disease, age at onset of menstruation between 12 and 14 years, and late age at menopause were linked to a higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

Among modifiable factors, hormone therapy and lack of physical activity (i.e., living a sedentary lifestyle) were responsible for 19 percent and 13 percent of cancer cases, respectively. Alcohol use and being overweight, however, were found in this study to be relatively minor contributors to breast cancer.

The study authors noted that since two simple strategies—reducing hormone therapy use and increasing exercise levels—could reduce invasive postmenopausal breast cancer rates in Germany by almost one-third, these might be ideal opportunities for public health interventions.

Source: Benjamin B.E. et al. "Population attributable risk of invasive postmenopausal breast cancer and breast cancer subtypes for modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors." Cancer Epidemiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.canep.2010.11.003

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 24 Jan 2011

Last Modified: 17 Oct 2014