Cancer that grows in the tissues of your breasts is known as breast cancer. While breast cancer commonly occurs in women and the number of cases is 100 times more in women when compared to men; breast cancer can be seen in men as well. 

Early diagnosis of breast cancer is the key to improving breast cancer outcomes and survival. The incidence of breast cancer is increasing in India and creating awareness about it is important.

The number of reported cases of breast cancer has seen a sharp increase in the last 20 years in India. The National Cancer Institute in India reports that for every 2 women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India. 

Know Your Breast Anatomy

Your breasts are a pair of prominent organs located in the upper torso (the trunk of your body). Women's breasts are the primary mammary glands or the milk glands that are mostly made up of fatty tissue. 

Within this tissue, there are small tube-like structures called lobules that contain milk glands. Tiny ducts connect the glands, lobules, and lobes, carrying the milk from the internal lobes to the external nipple.

The primary function of your breasts is to produce milk to provide nutrition to your baby. 

Causes of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer mostly begins in the cells in the milk-producing ducts or in the lobules or in any other tissue in the breast.

Hormonal, lifestyle, and environmental factors can increase your risk of breast cancer. The more risk factors you have, the more your risk increases. 

1. Age: Breast cancer is highly related to increasing age. If you are between the age of 40 and 60, you are at higher risk than younger women.

2. Family history: 25% of all breast cancer cases are related to a family history of this disease. Inherited changes to certain genes (the basic physical and functional unit of heredity) can cause breast cancer. 

Women who have inherited these genetic changes are at higher risk of breast cancer.

3. Reproductive factors: Reproductive factors such as early menarche (beginning of your menstrual cycle), late menopause (natural stopping of your menstrual cycle), late age at first pregnancy, and low parity can increase breast cancer risk. 

  • Each 1-year delay in menarche decreases the risk of breast cancer by 5% or 10%, and early menarche can also increase the risk.

  • Each 1-year delay in menopause increases the risk of breast cancer by 3%.

4. Estrogen levels: Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women. It develops and maintains both the reproductive system and female characteristics, such as breasts and pubic hair. 

  • The breasts are called a ‘secondary source’ of estrogen. High levels of estrogen in the body have been shown to be a risk factor for breast cancer.

5. Lifestyle factors: Excessive alcohol consumption and too much dietary fat intake can increase your risk of breast cancer. 

  • An intake of about 35-44 grams of alcohol per day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 32%.

  • The modern-day diet contains too much fat and excess intake of fat, especially saturated fat (an unhealthy dietary fat), is associated with the risk of breast cancer.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Some warning signs and symptoms of breast cancer are:

  • New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit).

  • Thickening or swelling of a part of your breast.

  • Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

  • Irritation or dimpling (pitting of skin) of breast skin.

  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or your breast.

  • Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.

  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.

Breast cancer is treatable if detected in the early stages. Talk to your doctor and know more about the spread, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer. 


1. Sun YS, Zhao Z, Yang ZN, et al. Risk Factors and Preventions of Breast Cancer. Int J Biol Sci. 2017;13(11):1387-1397. Published 2017 Nov 1. doi:10.7150/ijbs.21635

2. 2021. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 4 February 2021].

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 4 February 2021].

4. 2021. Cancer. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 February 2021].

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