Things You Didn’t Know About Breast Cancer

Alcohol is linked to breast cancer.

Drinking one alcoholic drink per day only slightly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. But drinking two to five drinks every day increases a woman’s risk by one and a half times, the American Cancer Society reported. Alcohol increases the odds by raising certain hormone levels and by damaging DNA in cells.

Men can get breast cancer, too.

Approximately 2,350 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, although this is only a small fraction compared to the 231,840 women in the U.S. who will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The figure [for males] is approximately one in 1,000, so it’s far less than females, but typically men are diagnosed at a later stage,” Lynda Weeks, executive director of Susan G. Komen Louisville, told The Courier-Journal. Men can develop breast cancer because they have breast tissue. The reason they are less affected is because their breast duct cells are less developed, and they have less of the female hormones that can disrupt breast cell growth and cause a problem. 

Most women with breast cancer didn’t inherit the disease.

Only small percentage–about 5 percent to 10 percent–of women who have breast cancer developed the disease due to genetics, the American Cancer Society said. Still, women whose relatives have suffered from breast cancer have a much higher chance of getting the disease than the rest of the population. A woman whose parent, sibling or child has had breast cancer is about twice as likely to get the disease, and those who have more than one close relative with it triple their odds of getting it. 

The most prevalent genetic cause of breast cancer is a mutation in the genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which can also be passed down from the father’s side of the family. The mutations are more common in Jewish people of Eastern Europe origin and people whose close relatives were diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age, although there are numerous additional factors that increase the likelihood of the mutations. 

Most people beat breast cancer.

For people with breast cancer, the odds of survival are definitely in their favor, though the chances vary depending on their specific type of cancer and stage of the disease. The overall five-year survival rate of people with breast cancer is 89.4 percent, and it is 98.6 percent for those with localized forms, according to the National Cancer Institute’s latest data.

The majority–more than 60 percent–of breast cancer cases are localized, but for those with more advanced forms, the outlook falls drastically. When the cancer spreads to regional lymph nodes, patients only have a 32 percent chance of surviving five years or more, and that number drops to 6 percent and 2 percent for metastasized and unstaged breast cancers, respectively. 

Black females are more likely to die from breast cancer.

White females are more likely to have breast cancer than any other race, but black women are more likely to die from it, the National Cancer Institute said. The organization attributed at least some of the difference to a lack of resources, including medical coverage, to detect the disease in its early stages, in addition to unequal cancer treatment opportunities for black women.

Also, younger black and Latino women living in areas of low socioeconomic status are more prone to aggressive breast tumors, which are more difficult to treat, than are women of other demographics. 

Most breast lumps are benign.

Most breast lumps are not cancerous, according to the National Cancer Society. The most common types of these lumps are fibrosis, cysts or benign breast tumors.

“I tell women that years before they ever experience a palpable lump we will have seen something on their screening mammogram,” Steven Goldstein, an obstetrician-gynecologist and professor at New York Univerity’s Langone Medical Center, told Everyday Health