If you haven’t been personally impacted by breast cancer, you likely know someone who has. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 255,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to ensure you’ll never get breast cancer. However, there are risks you should be aware of that can increase your chance of developing breast cancer:
- Age: Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50.
- Inherited genetic mutations: If you have certain gene mutations, you are at increased risk of developing cancer. BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2 are genes responsible for repairing damaged DNA. When they are mutated in certain ways, they fail at DNA repair, which could lead to breast (or ovarian) cancer. Mutations of CHEK2, a gene that suppresses tumors, and PTEN, a gene that controls how quickly cells multiply, can also increase your risk.
- Dense breast tissue: Having dense breast tissue is a risk factor for breast cancer.
- Family history: If your parent, sibling or child has had breast cancer, your odds of developing the disease are increased. If you believe you may be more likely to develop cancer because of your family medical history, make sure you are getting screened at the appropriate age.
- Early menstruation: If you began menstruating before age 12 you have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Obesity: Being obese, particularly after menopause, increases your breast cancer risk.
- Pregnancies: Women who have no full-term pregnancies or their first pregnancy after age 30 are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Hormone use: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.
- Birth control pills: Use of birth control pills can increase the risk for breast cancer in woman who are already at a very high risk of cancer, such as those with a BRCA mutation.
- Previous breast cancer diagnosis: If you’ve had breast cancer before, your risk of being diagnosed again is higher.
- Radiation: Previous radiation therapy to the chest in childhood or early adulthood increases your risk.
Regular breast cancer screening is very important in detecting the disease early. If you’re 40 years of age or older, or have other significant factors above such as a family history of breast cancer, contact Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center to schedule your mammogram.
Updated: Minor content updates were made to this article on October 14, 2021.