Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Risk Factors We Can NOT Change

  • Age. As a woman gets older, her risk for breast cancer increases.
  • Personal History. Having had a breast cancer increases the risk for developing it again.
  • Family History. Your risk for breast cancer increases when you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The risk is greatest when there is more than one first-degree relative (mother, father, sister, child) with breast or ovarian cancer.
  • Genetics. Having an inherited genetic abnormality (in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene), or a family member who has this. There is not a test for ALL genetic abnormalities that can increase breast cancer risk. However, there is genetic testing available for the most common abnormalities.
  • Atypical Hyperplasia. Having had a prior breast biopsy which finds atypical cell overgrowth.
  • Radiation. Having received radiation treatment to the chest (not a standard chest X-ray), especially if the radiation therapy was during childhood.
  • Young age at first period (starting your period before age 12).
  • Older age at first birth. Giving birth to your first child, after age 29.
  • Starting menopause at late age (after age 54).
  • High breast tissue density. (More dense breast tissue and less fat in your breasts).
  • Race. Breast cancer occurs more often in White women than Latina, Asian or African American.

Risk Factors We CAN Change

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy. Taking estrogen combined with progestin for long periods (such as 3 or more years) increases risk for breast cancer.
  • Obesity
  • Physical Activity. Remaining physically active with regular exercise throughout life decreases risk, independent of how much one weighs.
  • Alcohol Consumption. Drinking alcohol daily increases lifetime risk. The greater the amount the higher the risk.
  • Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding slightly reduces breast cancer risk. The benefit increases the longer you breastfeed.

Factors that have no proven ability to increase or change Breast Cancer risk

  • Using antiperspirants.
  • Wearing underwire bras.
  • Having breast Implants.
  • Abortion