Breast Cancer Risks for Hispanic Women Studied
Hispanic women may have some different risk factors for breast cancer than Caucasian women, says a study in the medical journal Cancer.
Experts have long known that breast cancer rates, as well as death rates from the disease, vary by ethnic group.
About 15 percent of the US population is Hispanic. Dr. Lisa M. Hines, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study, says that few studies have looked at breast cancer risk in the Hispanic population to see if the risks for breast cancer, taken from studies of mostly Caucasian women, hold true for Hispanic women.
Statistics show that Hispanic women are less likely to have breast cancer than are Caucasian women. Out of 100,000 Hispanic women, 89 of them will receive a breast cancer diagnosis, as compared with 132 of every 100,000 non-Hispanic Caucasian women. However, Hispanic women are more likely to die from the disease.
Hormone Use, Start of Menstruation Less of a Concern
The new study looked at premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Dr. Hines says recent hormone use and younger age at the start of menstruation did not appear to play as big a role in Hispanic women.
In younger women, notes Dr. Hines, family history and taller height - found in general to slightly increase breast cancer risk for some women - did not appear to be as strongly linked with breast cancer among Hispanics as in Caucasians.
The study looked at women enrolled in the 4-Corners Breast Cancer Study - named because participants lived in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado, four states whose boundaries touch at one point.
In all, 4,809 women - 3,134 postmenopausal and 1,675 premenopausal - were studied from 1999 to 2002. All women had been asked about their reproductive history, activity level, height, hormone use, alcohol intake and family history.
Key findings include that postmenopausal Hispanic women did not seem to be affected by recent hormone therapy use or by having started their menstrual periods at a younger age.
Among younger Hispanic women, taller height and family history were not found to be linked with increased risk, as they were among Caucasian women.
Turning over Every Stone for Answers
Exactly why different risk factors have a different impact is not known, Hines says, and the results suggest the question: Are there other unknown risk factor that elevate Hispanics' breast cancer risk?
Jane Delgado, president and chief executive of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, says the research is timely.
"As one in every six women is Hispanic, it is good to do a study like this," says Delgado. "The issue is that we know that cancer is not one disease but many diseases, and how it presents itself is going to show great variability by individuals."
For now, Dr. Hines explains, Hispanic women should still follow the same cancer-prevention advice as others. That means getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and, for older women, scheduling mammograms regularly.
Always consult your physician for more information.
Risk Factors, and Signs and Symptoms
Although there are some women who are at higher risk, the fact is all women are at risk for breast cancer. That's why it is so important to follow the three-step plan for breast health. Early detection of problems provides the greatest possibility of successful treatment.
Some people with one or more risk factors never develop a disease, such as cancer, while others develop cancer and have no known risk factors.T
Although certain factors may suggest or define a person's possible risks, they do not necessarily cause the disease.
Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk-factor lists. When reading about risk factors for breast cancer, keep in mind that the word "risk" is used in different ways:
Lifetime risk refers to the probability that a person, over the course of his or her lifetime, will be diagnosed or die from cancer.
Over her lifetime, a woman in the United States has a 1 in 8 risk of developing breast cancer, and a 1 in 35 risk of dying from breast cancer.
Relative risk is a measure of the strength of the relationship between risk factors and cancer.
With respect to breast cancer, it compares the risk of developing breast cancer in women who have a certain trait or exposure to women who do not have the trait or exposure.
About 20 percent to 30 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
The following are the most common symptoms of breast cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain and may cause no symptoms at all. And, some breast cancers never cause symptoms or other indications of a problem.
As the cancer grows, however, it can cause changes that women and men should watch for, such as:
A woman (or man) should consult a physician when any of these changes are noticed.
Disclaimer - This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. © 2009 Staywell Custom Communications.