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A recent research has found that some of the genes responsible for determining the cup size of a woman have earlier been found to be associated with breast cancer. So is it right to infer that the size of your breasts determine your risk of breast cancer?
Cancer specialists tell us that the structure of the breast plays a complicated role in the development of breast cancer. The mammographic density of the breast, i.e. the percentage of non-fat breast tissue in a breast as measured during mammography, has been identified as one of the risk factors behind breast cancer. It is said that women with a high breast density are almost five times more likely to develop breast cancer compared to women with normal breast density. However, the reasons behind this association are not properly understood.

Similarly, body weight has also been associated with breast cancer risk. An increased weight at an early age is said to decrease both premenopausal and postmenopausal risk of developing breast cancer. But an increase in body weight during adulthood increases the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer.

Studies done in the past have also linkedbreast asymmetry to the risk of breast cancer. Generally, the left breast is larger than the right breast and the incidence of breast cancer is also higher in the left breast. Whether this is just a coincidence or some other factors play a role in this association is still not known.

A study conducted by the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health at Boston, Massachusetts has thrown another important association between handedness and breast cancer. In this study, data obtained from 7 centers involving 3918 cases of breast cancer and 11,712 subjects as controls was examined to find an association between handedness and laterality of breast cancer. The study found that a significant number of left handed women suffered from left sided breast cancer.

As another part of the same study, data obtained from 4 centers involving 2325 cases of breast cancer and 7008 controls was examined to find an association between the cup size and the risk of developing breast cancer. The results showed that in postmenopausal women, larger cup size was associated with an increased breast cancer risk.

A study published in the journal “Cancer Causes and Controls”, tried to establish the link between breast size and breast cancer risk and the laterality of the tumor. The study was carried out on 261 women with breast cancer and 291 controls. All the women were members of the United States' Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project from 1973 to 1980. It was seen that the left breast was bigger in 53% of women with breast cancer and in 60% women from the control group. The data collected revealed that 51% of the women with breast cancer had left sided disease. It was also seen that cancerous growth was seen in the larger breast of 57% women with left sided diseases compared to 46% with right sided disease. In other words, breast size was predominantly linked to the risk of left sided breast cancer.

Another study has shown that in women with a BMI less than 25, those with a cup size of D or more were 1.8 times more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those with a cup size of A or less.

Although studies have brought out some degree of association between the breast size and the risk of breast cancer, according to Dr. Eriksson, the association is not very strong. Moreover, breast size is largely an inherited trait and it is more important to focus on the modifiable risk factors of breast cancer like obesity and alcohol use. It is these factors that a woman can change or influence so as to cut down on her risk of developing breast cancer.

  • “Breast Cancer Risk Might Be Tied To Breast Size, Study Says”, by Catherine Pearson, published in the July 5, 2012 issue of the Huffington Post, accessed on August 10, 2012.
  • “Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk”, by Hsieh CC, et al, published in the 1991 issue of the European Journal of Cancer, accessed on August 10, 2012.
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