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What Causes Breast Cancer? (4 Lifestyle Choices That Play a BIG Role)

Alcohol, sedentary lifestyle and decreases in physical activity have resulted in women in regions of Africa and Asia (more)…

If you’re reading this article you’ve probably been diagnosed with breast cancer and googled “what causes breast cancer” seeking to find an answer to this most recent (and big) issue you are facing.  Breast cancer is more frequent in “developed” or high-income countries for a reason; the “western lifestyle” consists of 4 major lifestyle choices that increase the risk of breast cancer (listed below).

Before we get to these lifestyle factors, if you live in North America know that it ranks high on the list of Globocan’s 2018 report of regions with a high incidence of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer:

  1. Australia/New Zealand
  2. Western Europe
  3. Northern Europe
  4. North America
  5. Southern Europe

Breast Cancer Trends in Low-Income Countries

While western countries lead the pack for high breast cancer incidence, there is an alarming “signal” that has been detected; lower-income countries are now experiencing an increase in breast cancer cases. The same reasons that cause Europeean and North American countries to have a high breast cancer rates are what is causing the increased incidence in lower-income countries (more on that below).

A recent study found that countries in south and central Asia, as well as middle and eastern Africa, which have historically low rates of breast cancer compared to Europe and North America, now are seeing increases in premenopausal breast cancer. While the incidence of premenopausal breast cancer in Asia and Africa are still 50% lower than North America, women die at a higher rate compared to these higher-income countries. Three to five regions within Africa now have a 40% mortality rate.  As well, high death rates from post-menopausal breast cancer are occurring in south-central Asia at 61.9%.

So What Causes Breast Cancer?

At the most basic level, breast cancer is caused by genetic mutations.  Environmental conditions can lead to DNA mutations, including alcohol consumption, certain foods (e.g. processed red meat), tobacco, and other environmental toxins.

And now to answer your question on what causes breast cancer. Authors from this study stated that the factors that are increasing the incidence of breast cancer in lower-income countries are all the same factors that have caused a high incidence of breast cancer in Europe and North America:

  1. Increased alcohol consumption in the female population
  2. Rising obesity rates, including abdominal obesity
  3. Decreases in physical activity
  4. Later age for childbearing and breastfeeding

All of these 4 lifestyle choices are linked to increasing a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. The authors of this study noted that the largest increase in postmenopausal breast cancer is occurring in countries where a transition to westernized living is happening quickly.

Can you identify with one of these 4 lifestyle factors? Are you able to reverse these things in your lifestyle, and if so, how? Comment below.

To your best health!

Hi! I am Dee Grace, PhD and I am a scientist and cancer patient advocate. Our company, The Cancer Detox, helps cancer patients improve their survival outcomes by getting better care from their doctor and adding natural healing to their lifestyle. Relief, healthcare access, and improving quality of life starts here!

  1. Download an intro to The Cancer Detox program here
  2. Here’s our list of the best cancer-fighting foods
  3. Learn more about cancer here



Heer E, et al. Global burden and trends in premenopausal and
postmenopausal breast cancer: a population-based study. Lancet Global Health. 2020;8:e1027.

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