Breast Cancer: Are You at Risk?

  • Breast cancer survivor
    Know Your Risk Factors
    Nearly 200,000 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. It's a disease that affects many people, including celebrities such as Christina Applegate, Robin Roberts, and Sheryl Crow. But what about you? Do you know your risk factors for breast cancer?

  • Breast Cancer Survivor
    Being Female
    While it might seem obvious that women are more likely to get breast cancer, men can get it, too. However, a woman is about 100 times more likely than a man to get breast cancer.

  • Woman outdoors
    A woman's risk for breast cancer increases with age. In fact, about two-thirds of invasive breast cancers are discovered in women age 55 or older.

  • Medical geneticist studying image of gene sequence on chromosomes
    Inherited Gene Mutations
    Some genes actually help to prevent cancer. But a mutation, or change, in such a gene could cause it to not work against cancer, thus increasing a woman's risk for breast cancer. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most commonly inherited.

  • Pain in the abdomen
    Women whose periods began before age 12 or went beyond age 55 are at a mildly elevated risk for breast cancer. This could be due to being exposed to more estrogen and progesterone during their lifetime.

  • new-mom-holding-sleeping-baby
    Reproductive History
    The longer a woman waits to have her first child, the higher her risk for developing breast cancer. Furthermore, a woman who never had a child is at an increased risk, too.

  • women-young-heart-myths
    Personal or Family History of Breast Cancer
    Women who have a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer have about twice the chance of developing the disease, too. If a woman has two such relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer, her own risk is then five times as much. Also, if a woman has had cancer in one breast, she is at an increased risk of developing a new cancer in her other breast.

  • Mature doctor using digital tablet to explain to female patient
    Your Race
    Race and ethnicity could play a part. Breast cancer is most often diagnosed in white women. However, African-American women are more likely to die from the disease, possibly because their tumors tend to be more aggressive. Latina, Asian, and Native-American women are less likely to develop or die from breast cancer.

  • Mammogram
    Breast Density
    Women whose breasts have less fatty tissue and more glandular tissue are considered to have denser breasts. Women with denser breasts are more likely to develop breast cancer. Also, keep in mind that it's more difficult to spot potential trouble spots on a mammogram if a woman has dense breasts.

  • heart-risk-women-alcohol
    Alcohol Consumption
    Studies repeatedly show that the more alcohol a woman consumes, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. In general, women should not have more than one drink a day.

  • Woman with tape measure
    Overweight and Obesity
    Women who are overweight or obese, in particular after menopause, have an elevated risk for breast cancer. After menopause, the ovaries stop making estrogen, so at that point much of a woman's estrogen comes from her fat tissue. This extra exposure to estrogen could be why women who are overweight or obese after menopause face an increased risk for breast cancer.

  • senior woman exercising down street outside
    Lack of Exercise
    Being physically active could lower breast cancer risk by warding off weight gain and obesity.

  • Silicone breast implant
    Misconceptions About Risk Factors
    Breast implants have not been found to increase the risk of developing breast cancer. However, breast implants could make it more difficult to see breast tissue on a standard mammogram. But there are ways to get around this complication with additional views to better examine the breast tissue.

Breast Cancer: Are You at Risk?
Breast Cancer. National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.
What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer: Risk Factors. National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.
What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?” American Cancer Society.
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Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 5
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