Any woman may develop breast cancer; however, the following risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing the disease.
Risk Factors that Can’t Be Changed
- Gender. Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
- Race or ethnicity. It has been noted that white women develop breast cancer slightly more often than African-American women. However, African-American women tend to die of breast cancer more often. This may be partly due to the fact that African-American women often develop a more aggressive type of tumor, although why this happens is not known. The risk for developing breast cancer and dying from it is lower in Hispanic, Native American, and Asian women.
- Aging. Two out of 3 women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
- Personal history of breast cancer.
- Previous breast irradiation.
- Family history and genetic factors. Having a close relative, such as a mother or sister, with breast cancer increases the risk. This includes changes in certain genes, such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and others.
- Benign breast disease. Women with certain benign breast conditions (such as hyperplasia or atypical hyperplasia) have an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Dense breast tissue. Breast tissue may look dense or fatty on a mammogram. Older women with high dense breast tissue are at increased risk.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure. Women who took this drug while pregnant (to lower the chance of miscarriage) are at higher risk. The possible effect on their daughters is under study.
- Early menstrual periods. Women whose periods began early in life (before age 12) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer.
- Late menopause. Women are at a slightly higher risk if they began menopause later in life (after age 55).
Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors
- Not having children, or having your first child after age 30
- Recent use (within 10 years) of oral contraceptives
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol use (more than 1 drink per day)
- Weight gain and obesity, especially after menopause
Your Next Steps
It’s important to talk with your doctor about your risk developing breast cancer and to develop a screening plan that’s right for you.
Don’t have a primary care doctor? Call Nurse at 800-362-9900 to find one today.