Drumroll, Please

Top 10 reasons I should not have breast cancer:

10) I am at a normal weight. Obesity -> more fat tissue -> more estrogen -> higher likelihood of breast cancer.

9)   I don’t drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or ingest funny-smelling herbs. Women who drink 2-5 alcoholic units per day increase their breast cancer risk by 50% over women who don’t drink.

8)   I exercise every day. Just 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week can reduce risk by 18%.

7)   I breastfed 3 children for a cumulative total of almost 5 years. Nursing is associated with a slightly lower risk.

6)   I eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. A healthy diet helps to ward off obesity.

5)   I am only 43. Eighty-five percent of breast cancer patients are diagnosed at or above the age of 50.

4)   I maintain a low-fat vegetarian diet. Again, the point is to avoid obesity.

3)   I haven’t had any unusual chest radiation exposure. Radiation treatment in a child’s or young adult’s developmental years leads to a much higher risk.

2)   I had my first child at the age of 30. Some studies cut the low risk group off at 30 and some at 35, so this might be a neutral point.

1)   I’m a nice person. Personally, I think this is justification enough, but I guess I’m not in charge here.  And, anyway, I couldn’t think of a 10th point.

Obviously these reasons were insufficient in staving off an insidious genetic mutation deep within a single (or maybe a few) breast cell years ago.  The troublemaker then propagated itself through millions of cell divisions to land me in the pickle I find myself today.  Therefore, to balance out the above list, I now propose the

Top 3 reasons I have breast cancer anyway:

3)   I have a family history. I have no grandparents, parents, siblings, or children with breast cancer.  However, 5-10% of breast cancer cases are inherited, my mother is an ovarian cancer survivor (diagnosed at age 70, fairly late), and I have a first cousin who is a breast cancer survivor (notably, not a first-degree relative).  Those data points together with my relative youth are weakly convincing arguments to suggest a potential hereditary genetic mutation.

2)   I have dense breast tissue. The less fatty, denser, and more glandular a woman’s breast tissue is compared to that of other women the same age, the higher the risk of breast cancer.   Rather inconveniently, moreover, the denser the breast tissue, the more difficult it is to spot worrisome abnormalities through imaging.

1)   I‘m a female. Actually, men can get breast cancer, too (it’s just not nearly as common), so this merely reduces to:  I’m a human being.  Ok, that seals it; we’re all at risk.


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