Why Breast Cancer Risk Rises as You Age

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Breast Cancer RiskHere’s a health breakthrough in the area of breast cancer. We know that the risk for this disease rises dramatically after women pass the age of 50. But cellular changes behind this have remained a mystery. That is, until now, as researchers have found the stem cell at the root of many breast cancers.

Though it’s all quite technical, it’s still worth knowing about this sort of breakthrough, because it is huge and impacts how we can handle breast cancer. The study found that the aging process causes a spike in “multipotent progenitors” and a drop in “myoepithelial cells.” The former are stem cells that may be responsible for breast cancer. The latter are cells in the breast believed to suppress tumors.

(Recommended: The Effects of Smoking on Breast Cancer)

Researchers say it’s a big step forward in understanding what happens on a cellular level as we age, which relates to cancer. It opens the door for research into new ways to avoid these age-related changes — and perhaps even reverse them.

Each year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S.develop invasive breast cancer, 75% of whom are over the age of 50. While the medical community has figured out some biological changes that raise one’s risk, the underlying cellular mechanisms had not been explained. They have now, as what this discovery means is that cancer prevention takes a hit because of the aging process. As you get older, there are more cells that raise the risk of breast cancer, and fewer cells that protect against it.

PLUS: A Vitamin to Shield Against Breast Cancer

Next to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common tumor in America. Here are overall important strategies to help protect yourself (which are also helpful on a number of other fronts):

— Drink alcohol only in moderation. Keep it to one drink a day.

— Exercise regularly, ideally at least 30 minutes a day.

— Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy, as it may raise the risk.

— Keep a healthy weight, working hard to manage it.

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