They start with being a woman. Know what factors cause increased risk.
October 1, 2009
Here are factors that the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society list as carrying an increased risk for breast cancer.
Factors governed by lifestyle:
Not having children or having them later in life: Women who have not had children, or who had their first child after age 30, have a slightly higher risk. Being pregnant more than once and at an early age reduces breast cancer risk.
Alcohol use: Those who have two to five drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who drink no alcohol. The ACS suggests stopping at one drink a day.
Recent use of birth control pills
Postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT)
Being overweight or obese
Lack of exercise
Factors you can't change:
Age: The chance of getting breast cancer goes up as a woman gets older. About 2 out of 3 women with invasive breast cancer are 55 years or older when the cancer is found, ACS says.
Genetic risk factors: About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be linked to inherited gene mutations. The most common are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (breast cancer 1 and 2) genes. Women with these gene changes have up to an 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer.
Family history: Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.
Personal history of breast cancer: A woman with cancer in one breast has a greater chance of getting a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.
Race: White women are slightly more likely to get breast cancer than are African-American, Hispanic or Asian women.