By: Thuria Ghaleb Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. However, women are nine times more prone to develop breast cancer by using oral contraceptive pills than other contraception methods, a new local study found. The study was conducted by researchers in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Sana’a University on 150 cases of breast cancer admitted to the National Oncology Center at the al-Jumhoury Hospital in Sana’a to generally identify risk factors of breast cancer among Yemeni female patients.
According to the study, such oral contraceptive pills contain the estrogen hormone which increases cell proliferation, especially in the breast, which has estrogen receptors. The affect of previous physical breast trauma is also found as the most serious factor on developing breast cancer among cases, surveyed this study.
Breast cancer is a disease where malignant cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is considered a heterogeneous disease, meaning that it is a different disease in different age groups and has different cell population within the tumor itself. Generally, breast cancer is a much more aggressive disease in younger women.
Breast cancer is considered the most widespread form of cancer among women in the world in general and in the Arab world in particular. Breast cancer is women’s most feared enemy and one of their biggest concerns especially women who are more prone to getting this disease.
More than one million women are diagnosed with breast cancer around the world every year. It represents 10 percent of all cancers diagnosed worldwide annually and constituted 22 percent of all new cancers in women in 2000, making it by far the most common cancer in women.
In the Arab world, breast cancer was diagnosed in women of early age groups, and the disease was detected in late stages of the disease. Nearly 70 percent of all women with breast cancer avoid declaring it or do not go to the doctor for treatment, even though it is one of the most important deadly diseases in Middle East. In Yemen, it has been found that breast cancer is the first most common cancer among women in the age group 30-59, and estimated to be 82 percent of total cancer in Yemen.
“Since there is no way of avoiding this disease, we have no choice but to study the factors that might have a direct link to breast cancer amongst Yemeni women such as the environment, diet, psychological and professional factors, and negative habits such as smoking and chewing qat,” said Dr. Arwa al-Hrribi, one of the researchers who conducted this study. “Some factors might be related to medications or the infection of other diseases. Other factors are pregnancy and birth related.” The study, supervised by Dr. Nagiba al-Shawafi who is a professor in the Community Medicine Department, also found that women above 34 years old are four times more affected by breast cancer than other younger age groups. Women who are living near factories, high voltage power or wireless stations are also found two times more prone to be affected with breast cancer than others, the study found.
Most of the surveyed cases were house-wives, however researchers found seven cases of women working in some pharmaceutical factory, in the same antibiotic production department. Smoking is considered as a risk factor for developing breast cancer and the chance of getting breast cancer is increasing among women smokers compared to non-smokers because nicotine changes the breast’s normal cells into cancerous cells. Sheesha was found to be the most common type of tobacco smoking among the surveyed women. Chewing qat also increases the chance of being affected by this kind of cancer, the study found. The nulliparous women are also more susceptible to develop breast cancer than the group of women who have history of full term pregnancy, however the late age at first-full term pregnancy at above 30 years old was another significant risk factor of getting breast cancer.
In addition, a woman with one affected first degree relative, mother or sister, has approximately double the risk of breast cancer of a woman with no family history of the disease; if two or more relatives are affected, her risk increases further.
The researchers also noticed that breastfeeding from just one breast and breastfeeding for less than one year were other significant factors in increasing the risk of breast cancer. From this study, it is also found that the urban residence has an association with the development of breast cancer. According to the study, most of the affected women, 20 percent, are from Taiz, followed by Sana’a at 19 percent. About half of cases, affected by breast cancer, are living in different urban areas, and 69 percent of cases were illiterate.
Finally, the study recommended starting a countrywide awareness campaign through media to educate people, especially women, about breast cancer and the factors that contribute to increasing the chances of getting such disease. It also recommended women with high risk factors of afflicting with this disease, to pay more attention to self breast examination, clinical examinations, and periodic mammography test for early detection of any lesion.
The study was conducted by Arwa al-Herribi, Amani al-Hamzi, Amat al-Rahim al-Siani, Hasnaa al-Ensi, Rozin al-Suilhi, Zinab Sharf al-Din, and Salwa al-Shahari.
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