Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

There are several different risk factors for breast cancer, although having a risk factor does not guarantee that cancer will occur. Some people may have several risk factors yet not develop cancer, and vice versa. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as age or having a family history of breast cancer. Others, such as lifestyle changes, may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer Include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Breast changes that are not breast cancer, such as benign tumors
  • Body weight
  • Excess alcohol consumption

Taking steps to reduce potential risks may reduce the chance of developing breast cancer. Exercise, eating a balanced diet, and limiting your exposure to carcinogens can all contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle.

What are Average Risk and Higher Risk?

All women have some chance of developing breast cancer. The term ‘Average Risk’ includes all women. However, certain women are at higher risk. Women at higher risk may have one or several factors that further increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Some women do not have any risk factors yet still develop breast cancer, and vice versa.

Some common risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Age
  • Being female
  • Late or no pregnancy
  • Alcohol use
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Physical inactivity (sedentary lifestyle)
  • Previous personal history of breast cancer
  • Having dense breasts
  • Early menstrual period (before the age of 12)
  • Late menopause (after the age of 55)
  • Use of combination hormone therapy

In addition, some women may have certain factors that further increases the risk of developing breast cancer. These higher risk factors include:

  • A BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • A CHEK2, PALB2, or ATM gene mutation
  • A TP53 or PTEN gene mutation
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome
  • Radiation therapy to the chest between the ages of 10 and 30
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Individual history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

This chart from the CDC features a comprehensive screening guide that includes recommendations from several different organizations. Speak with your doctor about any questions or concerns that you may have.

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