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Breast Cancer Risk Factors


According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website, research indicates that there are known factors for breast cancer.  At this time, researchers agree on more than 20 factors that increase breast cancer risk and several factors that lower risk. Some of these risk factors affect risk a great deal and others by only a small amount.

While there have been great advances in our knowledge, it’s still not understood what causes breast cancer to develop at a certain time in a certain person. It’s likely a combination of risk factors (many of which are still unknown) that together make cells in the breast turn cancerous. But exactly why a certain combination of factors might cause cancer in one person, but not in another is still unclear.

Although there are steps nearly everyone can take to lower risk, no one has full control over whether he/she gets breast cancer. Many risk factors are still unknown and many are simply out of our control (such as getting older or having a family history of breast cancer).

However, there is a lot that you can do to reduce your risk from breast cancer. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help lower risk (more) and getting regular screening tests can detect breast cancer early when it’s most treatable (more). Finally, having a general knowledge of what factors may increase your risk can help you work with your health care provider to address concerns he/she has and develop a breast health plan.


Established Factors

Recognized as linked (or not linked in some instances) to breast cancer.

Approximate risk of breast cancer
BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation Strong increase in risk
Carcinoma in situ Strong increase in risk
Family history of breast cancer
Strong increase in risk
Moderate increase in risk
High breast density Strong increase in risk
Hyperplasia (benign breast disease)
  • Atypical
Strong increase in risk
  • Usual
Moderate increase in risk
Personal history of cancer Strong increase in risk
  • Not having children
Moderate increase in risk
  • Having a first child after age 35
Moderate increase in risk
High bone density Moderate increase in risk
Radiation exposure or frequent X-rays during youth Moderate increase in risk
Age at first period < 12 years Weak increase in risk
Age at menopause > 55 years Weak increase in risk
Alcohol consumption
  • 1-2 drinks / day
Weak increase in risk
  • 2-4 drinks / day
Weak increase in risk
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage Weak increase in risk
Birth control pills (current/recent use only) Weak increase in risk
Being tall Weak increase in risk
High socioeconomic status Weak increase in risk
Mammography (radiation exposure) Weak increase in risk
Postmenopausal hormone use
  • Estrogen only
Weak increase in risk
  • Estrogen + progestin
Moderate increase in risk
Breastfeeding Weak decrease in risk
Abortion No increase or decrease in risk
Hair dyes No increase or decrease in risk

Today’s  Think Pink Link is Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Don’t forget about unKIT Live! broadcasts tonight at 9:30pm EST (6:30pm PST) on uStream unKIT Channel Be sure to sign in to participate in the live Chat.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 10, 2008 at 12:39 am

    As one scrapbooker to another, please check out the nonprofit organization I founded to provide online support to women with breast cancer, http://www.pink-link.org. Happy cropping!

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