Risk factors increase a person’s chance of getting cancer. There are different kinds of risk factors. Some risk factors for cancer, like age and family history, cannot be prevented.
There are some risk factors that have been shown to increase the risk for both invasive breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Just because you have one or more of these risks does not mean you will get cancer.
- Aging. Risk of developing breast cancer increases as women age.
- Being BRCA1 or BRCA2 positive.
- Being obese.
- Being pregnant for the first time after the age of 30.
- Benign breast conditions. Women with a history of multiple breast biopsies or a breast biopsy showing atypical cells may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to patients who do not have this history.
- Family history. Having a family history of breast cancer does increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
- Personal history. Women with cancer in one breast have a three- to four-fold increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.
- Taking certain hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause.
Speak with your physician if you believe you are at an increased risk for breast cancer.
Risk Reduction and Prevention
While there is no absolute way to prevent breast cancer, it is recommended that everyone receive age-appropriate screenings and live a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Women should also know the symptoms and warning signs of breast cancer.
Women should talk with their doctor about specific preventive measures they can take.
As with most cancers, knowing the family history of breast cancer can help patients take action toward prevention, including:
- Breast cancer chemoprevention, using drugs such as tamoxifen, raloxifene and aromatase inhibitors.
- Changing those risk factors that can be changed. Limit alcohol intake, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy body weight. Women who choose to breast-feed for at least several months may also get an added benefit of reducing their breast cancer risk.
- Find breast cancer early. Follow early detection guidelines to help find cancers when the likelihood of successful treatment is greatest.
- Genetic testing for BRCA gene mutations.
- Preventive (prophylactic) bilateral mastectomy.
- Prophylactic oophorectomy (ovary removal).
- Women who are or may be at an increased risk can take steps to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. These women should speak with their doctor to understand the risk and benefits of these steps.
Cancer Risk Evaluation at the Abramson Cancer Center
Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center
The Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center provides genetic counseling to help women and men identify their genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as other cancers. The center assists patients with cancer as well as those who may be at an increased risk for cancer.
Learn more about genetic counseling and support at the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center.
The Basser Research Center for BRCA
The Basser Research Center for BRCA provides education and support for individuals and families with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Its mission is to deliver cutting-edge research in basic and clinical sciences to advance the care of individuals who carry BRCA mutations.
Learn more about support and education for people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations at the Basser Research Center for BRCA.