Why Is Breast Cancer Rising Among Young Women? Expert Lists Possible Causes

There has been a disturbing increase in the incidence of breast cancer in young women aged 15- 40 years worldwide. Breast cancer in younger women is often diagnosed at advanced stages than in older women, as they do not undergo routine screening mammograms.

Most of the screening programs are suggested for women more than 40 years of age with the benefit of diagnosis at early stages, thus helping in better prognosis and cure rates. In a conversation with Jagran English, Dr G. Vamshi Krishna Reddy, Director-Oncology Services, Consultant Medical Oncologist & Hemato Oncologist about why breast cancer cases are rising in young women.

Breast Cancer In Young Women
According to Dr Reddy, there are numerous risk factors and causes postulated, but it is difficult to identify a single cause-and-effect relationship. Various epidemiological studies have suggested the role of various modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors.

Familial genetic causes like mutation in BRCA1/BRCA2
Hormonal factors like early menarche, oral contraceptives, late childbearing
Modifiable risk factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol, high consumption of refined food and dietary fats
The incidence of familial breast cancer is also quite high in younger women, and approximately half of the women with breast cancer younger than age 30 harbour a germline mutation in BRCA1, BRCA2 or TP53 genes. Hormonal factors that increase breast cancer risk include early menarche, oral contraceptives, anovulatory infertility, and having children after 30 years.

Modifiable risk factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle consumption of processed foods, foods rich in dietary fat, alcohol consumption and smoking. The use of microplastics in our environment has also increased in the recent past and few studies have suggested their harmful effects. The risk factors which put a woman at higher risk of breast cancer at a young age are:

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Close relative like a mother, or sibling with breast cancer diagnosed before 45 years of age
Male relative with breast cancer
A close relative with ovary cancer diagnosed at any age
Close relatives with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations

Dr Reddy states that there are no routine investigations or screening programs suggested for young women, hence the only strategy suggested is to raise awareness in young women and primary care physicians like gynaecologists that a breast lump could be cancer and should never be ignored.

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