Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Higher Risk Factors

  • Age: Most cases occur in women 50 or older; it is less common in women 35 or younger. Age is the most influential risk factor.
  • Family history: Your risk is higher with a family history (especially mother, sister, daughter) of breast and/or ovarian cancer.
  • Hormones / childbirth: Your risk is higher if you had your first period before age 12, began menopause after age 55, never had children or had your first child after age 30. Postmenopausal use of hormonal therapy increases your risk of developing breast cancer in your lifetime.
  • Previous biopsy: If you’ve had abnormal breast biopsy results or benign breast diseases requiring biopsies, you may be at increased risk. Other breast diseases such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular or ductal carcinoma in situ are risk factors, too.
  • Education / socioeconomic status: Women with a higher socioeconomic status and/or education tend to have fewer children and start childbearing after age 30 – both of which put them at higher risk.
  • Weight: Obesity or weight gain after menopause are risk factors.
  • Genetic alterations: Inherited alterations in the genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2, account for about five to 10 percent of all breast cancer cases.

Other lower risk factors include:

  • Oral contraceptive use
  • A diet high in saturated fats
  • A lifetime of physical inactivity
  • Alcohol (more than one alcoholic drink a day)

Reducing Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

  • Talk with your doctor about your use of oral contraceptives and hormonal therapy
  • Maintain your ideal weight
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Follow recommended screening guidelines
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eliminate tobacco use and use alcohol in moderation
  • Get an assessment from your doctor of your risk for breast cancer
  • If you’re at increased risk, talk to your doctor about medications that can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.