Breast Cancer Risk Factors

According to the National Cancer Institute, a woman in the United States has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. And while there is no way to completely prevent breast cancer, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Lifestyle Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Some of the biggest breast cancer risks are related to lifestyle, or personal behaviors and choices. If you are concerned about developing breast cancer, you can make changes to reduce your risk:

  • Alcohol consumption: The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor).
  • Weight: Excess body fat is associated with increased blood insulin and estrogen levels in women -- both of which have been associated with breast cancer. If you're overweight, try eating reasonable portions of healthy foods and increasing your physical activity. Talk with your doctor about a good plan to lose weight.

Additionally, the American Cancer Society reports that women who have a baby before age 30 and women who have multiple children have a slightly lower risk of breast cancer. If you give birth at any age, breastfeeding your baby for at least a year can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Genetic Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Some breast cancer risk factors are genetic (inherited), meaning you were born with them. These include:

  • Gender: Women are 100 times more likely than men to develop breast cancer.
  • Age: Women, age 55 and older, have the highest risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
  • Inherited gene mutations: We are still learning more about these, but mutations in certain genes can lead to abnormal cell growth, which can cause cancer. While BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most well-known gene mutations linked to breast cancer, we continue to learn more about how genetic makeup links to breast cancer risk.
  • Dense breast tissue: Denser breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect cancer on a mammogram.
  • A family history of breast cancer: If a woman in your immediate family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may consider learning more about genetic testing. This can help determine if you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer: If you are a breast cancer survivor, you're at higher risk of developing it again.

Being aware of any breast cancer risks you have is beneficial because you can take charge of your health and ensure you have regular breast cancer screenings. Should you develop the disease, early detection increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Detection & Diagnosis

If you feel you are at greater risk of developing breast cancer due to your lifestyle, talk with your primary doctor about the things you can control and a plan to make changes.

If you believe genetic traits put you at higher risk, you can contact a member of the NYOH Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment team at 518-262-1068.

Learn more about how breast cancer is found and diagnosed in this section.