Risk indicates the probability of occurrence of any condition or disease and can be presented in different modes. Generally health care professionals and mass media categorize risks in two ways as relative risk and absolute risk.
Relative risk: It is the probability of certain happening to people exposed to a particular risk, as compared to those not subjected to that risk. In term of numbers, relative risk reveals that by doing something, such as taking a pill, can change your risk compared to your risk without taking that pill. Relative risk can be expressed both in percentages and in “hazard ratios”.
In case you do nothing new, your hazard ratio is 1.0 – this means that your risk doesn’t change. If you do something and your risk decreases by half, or goes down to 0.5, then you are half as likely to have the risk. But if your risk goes up, from 1.0 to 1.78, then you are 78% more likely to encounter the risk. If your risk goes up to 4.0, then you have a fourfold (400%) increased risk of having the problem.
Absolute risk: It is the chances of exact happening to a specific person over a period of time. Absolute risk is the extent of your own risk. Absolute risk reduction is the number of percentage or points by which your own risk changes if you do something, like taking a pill. The extent of your absolute risk reduction depends on what your risk is to begin with.
The factors that can increase or decrease your risk for breast cancer are considered important. It is equally important to know the quantity of impact of a certain factor (in % or numbers) on your risk for breast cancer. Knowing the exact amount of change in risk with lifestyle modifications helps your doctor to make accurate treatment decisions for a particular patient.
Generally it is very difficult to determine the exact cause for the development of breast cancer in an individual. However it seems that certain characteristic features that are commonly seen in breast cancer patients may be involved in the development of breast cancer. These features are called risk factors and can be categorized on the following basis:
Women having certain risk factors have increased chances of developing breast cancer. However, having one or more risk factors for breast cancer does not indicate that you will surely get breast cancer. The common risk factors for developing breast cancer are increasing age, family history, obesity, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and other environmental factors.
Some factors are beyond our control whereas others factors need to be addressed. It is also seen that many women develop breast cancer but lack any risk factors. Alternatively there are certain factors that provide a protective effect against breast cancer such as bearing children at an early age and breastfeeding. Conversely, it is even possible that women with protective factors may still develop breast cancer.
The risks factors related to individual characteristics include:
The risks factors related to family history of breast cancer include:
The risk factors associated with characteristic features of individual breast include:
There are a number of “myths” about various risk factors that may cause breast cancer but usually such risk factors lack scientific data to support them. Some of the common myths related to risk of breast cancer include:
The origin of most myths is unknown, but Internet media is involved in the spreading of the misinformation. It is natural as most of us want to know the exact cause for the development of breast cancer for them or for their loved ones. Many myths also seem to be attractive as they provide quick actions to reduce the risk factors of breast cancer.
It is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction or myth from reality, unless or until you are an expert in science and medicine field. Make sure to discuss any concerns you have about your risks for developing breast cancer with your physician.