Can Early Menopause Cause Breast Cancer?

Medically Reviewed on 6/29/2022
Can Early Menopause Cause Breast Cancer?
There is no definite way to prevent breast cancer since it results due to uncontrolled growth of cells in your breast.

Early menopause does not cause breast cancer. An increasing age, and not menopause, can increase your breast cancer risk.

  • According to studies, the late onset of menopause can increase your breast cancer risk because your body is exposed to reproductive hormones for a longer period. 
  • Early menopause causes a decline in endogenous hormone levels.
  • This causes a reduction in breast cell division with the termination of menstrual cycles.

According to research, women who underwent surgery for the removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) at a young age have a greatly reduced risk of breast cancer compared with those who have natural menopause at 55 years or older. Removal of the ovaries results in the cessation of menstrual cycles or the attainment of menopause.

Breast cancer risk on average increases by about three percent per year of delay in age at menopause.

Does menopausal hormone therapy increase your risk of breast cancer?

Menopause may cause certain symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and low libido that may make women seek hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT, also called postmenopausal hormone therapy or menopausal hormone therapy, can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Additionally, menopause may be associated with an increase in body weight and reduced physical activity in some women. Obesity and reduced physical activity may increase the risk of certain types of cancer including breast cancer.

The risk is particularly increased with combined hormone therapy (hormone therapy that provides both estrogen and progesterone).

  • Combined hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer being diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
  • Hormone therapy undoubtedly serves to protect from certain menopausal conditions such as osteoporosis.
  • Thus, you must discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of taking these medications.

According to studies, the increased risk of breast cancer with combined hormone therapy is seen after four years of treatment. This risk appears to reduce within about five years of stopping treatment. Therefore, the current and recent recipients are particularly at risk. Breast cancer risk, however, does not go away completely despite the cessation of combined hormone therapy. 

The association between hormone therapy containing estrogen alone and breast cancer risk is mixed according to research. Some studies report no change in risk, whereas others report an increased or even a slightly decreased risk of breast cancer. Overall, estrogen therapy does not seem to significantly increase breast cancer risk in menopausal women.


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What factors increase your risk of breast cancer?

A breast cancer risk factor refers to a condition or variable that can increase your risk of breast cancer. These risk factors can be further divided into two categories, modifiable and nonmodifiable.

Modifiable factors

These include the risk factors that you can change.

Modifiable risk factors for breast cancer include:

Nonmodifiable factors

These include the risk factors you can do nothing about.

Nonmodifiable risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Increasing age
  • A positive family history of breast cancer
  • A personal history of breast cancer or some other precancerous breast conditions
  • Early-onset periods (early menarche)
  • Late menopause
  • Chest radiation therapy
  • Having certain inherited genetic conditions such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations

Can you prevent breast cancer?

There is no definite way to prevent breast cancer. Breast cancer results due to the uncontrolled growth of cells in your breast. Because several modifiable and nonmodifiable factors play a role in its causation, you cannot be sure that following certain precautions can surely prevent this disease.

Furthermore, many people may develop breast cancer even in the absence of any risk factors, whereas others may have risk factors but still do not develop breast cancer.

Nonetheless, you can improve your overall health and follow a healthy lifestyle to work on the modifiable risk factors.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • If you have any risk factors for breast cancer, discuss with your doctor about screening for breast cancer
  • Visit your doctor if you notice any abnormality in your breast size, shape, or the appearance of your nipples or notice any unusual breast discharge

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Medically Reviewed on 6/29/2022
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