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Health: What Transgender People Need to Know About Breast Cancer Risk and Screening

Health recently interviewed Edward Ray, MD, a plastic surgeon with the Cedars-Sinai Transgender Surgery and Health Program, to discuss breast cancer risk for transgender individuals and proper preventive care.

According to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, non-transgender women, nonbinary people and transgender men ages 40 to 74 who are at average risk of developing breast cancer should get mammogram screenings every two years.

But transgender individuals who have undergone gender-affirming care—such as hormone therapy or surgery—have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, Ray explained.

“If you have breast cancer, usually it occurs because there’s a mutation in the cells,” Ray, who is also an associate professor of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai, told Health. Because estrogen can be linked to the cell-mutation process in many cases, “a lot of breast cancers grow faster and more aggressively if they’re exposed to estrogen.”

But the opposite might be true for transgender men taking androgens like testosterone. Their likelihood of developing breast cancer could decrease, Ray said.

Despite the task force’s revised recommendations, there are still no clear guidelines on preventive care for transgender people. “[Transgender women] still carry breast cancer risks, and they should be screened,” Ray told Health. “We just haven’t figured out the timing and any other specific about when to institute screening.”  

To stay on top of one’s health, Ray advises genetic counseling for transgender people with a family history of breast cancer. He also encourages transgender women to consult a healthcare provider about taking estrogen because it might increase their risk of breast cancer.

Click here to read the complete story from Health.