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Risk factors for breast cancer: alcohol consumption, induced abortion, and contraception

Written By : Wintery Knight
February 10, 2012

Here’s the latest study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showing that excessive consumption of alcohol is a rish factor for breast cancer.

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Excerpt:

Consumption of 3 to 6 alcoholic drinks per week is associated with a small increase in the risk of breast cancer, and consumption in both earlier and later adult life is also associated with an increased risk, according to a study in the November 2 issue of JAMA.

“In many studies, higher consumption of alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, the effect of low levels of drinking as is common in the United States has not been well quantified,” according to background information in the article. “In addition, the role of drinking patterns (i.e., frequency of drinking and ‘binge’ drinking) and consumption at different times of adult life are not well understood.”

Wendy Y. Chen, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues examined the association of breast cancer with alcohol consumption during adult life, including quantity, frequency, and age at consumption. The study included 105,986 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study who were followed up from 1980 until 2008 with an early adult alcohol assessment and 8 updated alcohol assessments. The primary outcome the researchers measured was the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

During the follow-up period, there were 7,690 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed among the study participants. Analyses of data indicated that a low level of alcohol consumption (5.0 to 9.9 grams per day, equivalent to 3-6 glasses of wine per week) was modestly but statistically significantly associated with a 15 percent increased risk of breast cancer. In addition, women who consumed at least 30 grams of alcohol daily on average (at least 2 drinks per day) had a 51 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared with women who never consumed alcohol.

The researchers also found that when examined separately, alcohol consumption levels at ages 18 to 40 years and after age 40 years were both strongly associated with breast cancer risk. The association with drinking in early adult life still persisted even after controlling for alcohol intake after age 40 years.

Binge drinking, but not frequency of drinking, was also associated with breast cancer risk after controlling for cumulative alcohol intake.

Now let’s take a look at some other factors that raise the risk of breast cancer.

Abortion and breast cancer

Many studies show a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Study 1: (September 2010)

Based on the expression of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and HER2/neu (HER2), breast cancer is classified into several subtypes: luminal A (ER+ and/or PR+, HER2-), luminal B (ER+ and/or PR+, HER2+), HER2-overexpressing (ER-, PR-, and HER2+) and triple-negative (ER-, PR-, and HER2-). The aim of this case-control study is to determine reproductive factors associated with breast cancer subtypes in Chinese women. A total of 1,417 patients diagnosed with breast cancer in the First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang, China between 2001 and 2009 and 1,587 matched controls without a prior breast cancer were enrolled.

[...]Postmenopause and spontaneous abortion were inversely associated with the risk of luminal tumors. By contrast, multiparity, family history of breast cancer and induced abortion increased the risk of breast cancer.

Study 2: (March 2010)

OBJECTIVE: To explore the risk factors of breast cancer for better control and prevention of the malignancy.

METHODS: The clinical data of 232 patients with pathologically established breast cancer were investigated in this 1:1 case-control study to identify the risk factors of breast cancer.

RESULTS: The history of benign breast diseases, family history of carcinoma and multiple abortions were the statistically significant risk factors of breast cancer, while breast feeding was the protective factor.

CONCLUSION: A history of benign breast diseases, family history of carcinoma and multiple abortions are all risk factors of breast cancer.

But wait, there’s more.

Birth control pills

Many studies showed that taking birth control pills caused an increased risk of breast cancer.

Study 1: (March 2003)

RESULTS: Among the youngest age group (<35 years, n = 545), significant predictors of risk included African-American race (RR = 2.66: 95% CI 1.4-4.9) and recent use of oral contraceptives (RR = 2.26; 95% CI 1.4-3.6). Although these relationships were strongest for estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) tumors (RRs of 3.30 for race and 3.56 for recent oral contraceptive use), these associations were also apparent for young women with ER+ tumors. Delayed childbearing was a risk factor for ER+ tumors among the older premenopausal women (Ptrend < 0.01), but not for women <35 years in whom early childbearing was associated with an increased risk, reflecting a short-term increase in risk immediately following a birth.

Study 2: (October 2008)

Oral contraceptive use ≥1 year was associated with a 2.5-fold increased risk for triple-negative breast cancer (95% confidence interval, 1.4-4.3) and no significantly increased risk for non-triple-negative breast cancer (Pheterogeneity = 0.008). Furthermore, the risk among oral contraceptive users conferred by longer oral contraceptive duration and by more recent use was significantly greater for triple-negative breast cancer than non-triple-negative breast cancer (Pheterogeneity = 0.02 and 0.01, respectively).

Note: I think that non-chemical contraception is fine for married couples.

Why are these risk factors so prevalent today?

Now let’s put it all together by looking at this New York Times article by Nancy Bauer.

Excerpt:

If there’s anything that feminism has bequeathed to young women of means, it’s that power is their birthright.  Visit an American college campus on a Monday morning and you’ll find any number of amazingly ambitious and talented young women wielding their brain power, determined not to let anything — including a relationship with some needy, dependent man — get in their way.  Come back on a party night, and you’ll find many of these same girls (they stopped calling themselves “women” years ago) wielding their sexual power, dressed as provocatively as they dare, matching the guys drink for drink — and then hook-up for hook-up.

The article was written by:

Nancy Bauer is associate professor and chair of philosophy at Tufts University. She is the author of “Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism,” and is currently completing a new book, “How to Do Things With Pornography.”

So in that one quotation you have three risk factors for beast cancer: alcohol consumption, contraceptives, and, if necessary, induced abortions. It’s important to know who is telling women to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for breast cancer.

Who is paying for all of this increased health care spending?

The total cost for breast cancer treatment, which raises medical insurance premiums (private health care) or taxes (single-payer health care), has been estimated to be between $1.8 billion and $3.8 billion dollars. In addition, the government spends billions of dollars each year on breast cancer research. All of this spending is costing taxpayers a lot of money, as people demand more and more government funding of breast cancer research and breast cancer treatment (with either private or single-payer health care).

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