Breast Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?

There are some risk factors for breast cancer that are within your control, while there are others that are out of your hands.

Risk factors include:

  • Gender -- Women are much more susceptible to breast cancer than men.
  • Age -- Older women are at greater risk than younger women.
  • Family history of breast cancer -- If a blood relative, such as a mother or a sister, has had breast cancer, then the likelihood increases that other women in the family will have breast cancer.
  • Inherited genes -- Some women carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer -- If a woman has had breast cancer before, she may have it again in the other breast.
  • Obesity -- Obese and overweight women are at a greater risk of breast cancer.
  • Alcohol use -- Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Estrogen-containing medicines -- Women who undergo hormone therapy after menopause may have an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as many women who take oral contraceptives containing estrogen. Ask your doctor before beginning any type of medication that includes estrogen.
  • Age at menstruation, menopause and childbirth -- Menstruating at an early age has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, as has beginning menopause at an older age. Women who give birth for the first time after the age of 35 may also be more susceptible.

On the next page, we'll talk about how you or your doctor may detect breast cancer.