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Risk Factors

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main factors that influence your risk for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years of age and older.

Just because you have a risk factor does not mean that you will get breast cancer. It is important if you do have cancer risk factors to talk to your physician or get screened for breast cancer.

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Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Age: The risk for breast cancer increases with age.
  • Genetic mutations: Women who have inherited these genetic changes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Reproductive history: Menstrual periods staring before age 12 and experiencing menopause after age 55 expose women to hormones longer, increasing their risk for breast cancer.
  • Dense breasts: Women with dense breasts are at an increased risk for breast cancer since dense breasts can make it hard to see tumors on a mammogram.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or breast diseases: Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. Some non-cancerous breast diseases are associated with a higher risk of getting breast cancer, including atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ.
  • Family history of breast cancer: A woman's risk for breast cancer increases if she has a mother, sister, daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on her mother's or father's side who have had breast cancer. Having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman's risk.
  • Previous treatment using radiation therapy: Women who had radiation therapy to the chest or breasts before age 30 have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life.

Controllable Risk Factors

  • Not being physically active: Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Being overweight after menopause: Post-menopausal women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
  • Taking hormones: Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can increase a woman's risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Additionally, specific oral contraceptives (birth control pills) also have been found to increase breast cancer risk.
  • Pregnancy history: If a woman has her first pregnancy after age 30, chooses not to breastfeed, and doesn't have a full-term pregnancy is at an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Alcohol Consumption: Studies show that a woman's risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.

Contact our cancer risk and genetics counselor for more information about your personal risk of breast cancer.

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