Am I at Risk of Breast Cancer?

acc at ppmc breast cancer awareness

At Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, we devote ourselves to raising awareness for breast cancer not only in the month of October but year-round. With 1 in 8 women diagnosed each year, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

One of the crucial areas we focus our awareness is in the risk and prevention of breast cancer. Read on for a list of common questions women have about managing their personal risk.

Who is at risk for breast cancer?

All women have some risk of developing breast cancer, but some women are at an increased risk due to age, genetics or lifestyle. Women who are over the age of 50 and have gone through menopause tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer more often than younger, pre-menopausal women. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Is my risk higher if I have a family history of breast cancer?

Unfortunately, your risk is higher if you have a family history of breast cancer. If a woman’s mother, daughter or sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk of developing breast cancer is twice as high as those who have no immediate family history.

Another uncontrollable risk factor of developing breast cancer is genetics. If you inherit a mutation in your BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, your risk of breast cancer can rise up to 75 percent.

What else can put me at risk for breast cancer?

Certain lifestyle factors that can raise a woman's risk of breast cancer are:

How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?

Exercise is a great start. Try 30 minutes of moderate, daily physical activity. Not a gym or sports person? Keep it simple, with:

  • Biking
  • Walking
  • Gardening or yard work 
  • Yoga
  • Dancing

Eating well is another simple way to reduce your risk of all cancers. Focus on eating plenty of fresh whole foods like fruits, vegetables and grains, and less on fad diets and supplements. 

Will I still need to get screened for breast cancer?

Yes, your doctor can also recommend breast screenings (mammograms) depending on your age and risk factors.

Additionally, you should talk to your gynecologist about performing a breast self-exam. Doing this regularly can help you detect changes in the breasts that may be a sign of cancer.

I have a family history of breast cancer. What can I do about it?

Penn Medicine’s Basser Center for BRCA can determine your breast cancer risk and offer solutions for prevention and management. You may be eligible to join a study to help improve the rates of genetic testing for women at high risk of breast cancer.

Understanding your breast cancer risk and taking steps to manage it can bring you peace of mind as well as protect your body. Learn more about our Basser Center for BRCA and Cancer Risk Evaluation Center.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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