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What Increases Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

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Lung cancer is one of the most common types, with around 47,000 people receiving bad news of this diagnosis yearly. The tricky part about lung cancer is that there are usually no symptoms pointing to the condition in the early stages. Now, research has linked an immunity-boosting supplement to a higher risk of this condition.

Previous Breast Cancer Or Lump

If you have previously had breast cancer or early non-invasive cancer cell changes in breast ducts, you have a higher risk of developing it again, either in your other breast or in the same breast.

A benign breast lump does not mean you have breast cancer, but certain types of breast lumps may slightly increase your risk of developing cancer.

Some benign changes in your breast tissue, such as cells growing abnormally in ducts , or abnormal cells inside your breast lobes , can make getting breast cancer more likely.

Factors That Affect Breast Cancer Risk

Some factors affect breast cancer risk a great deal and others by only a small amount.

Understanding which factors may affect your risk of breast cancer can help you work with your health care provider to address any concerns you have and develop a breast cancer screening plan thats right for you.

Our Breast Cancer Risk Factors Table compares risk factors by level of risk and strength of evidence.

Factors that affect breast cancer risk are listed below alphabetically.

Age is a risk factor for breast cancer in both women and men. The older a person is, the more likely they are to get breast cancer.

Learn more about age and breast cancer risk.

Both the age when a woman gives birth to her first child and the number of children a woman has affect her risk of breast cancer.

Women who give birth to their first child at age 35 or younger tend to get a protective benefit from pregnancy .

In general, the more children a woman has given birth to, the lower her risk of breast cancer tends to be .

Learn more about age at first childbirth, number of childbirths and breast cancer risk.

Starting menstrual periods at a young age is linked to a small increase in breast cancer risk .

For example, women who begin their periods before age 11 have about a 15-20 percent higher breast cancer risk compared to those who begin their periods at age 15 or older .

Going through menopause at a later age is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer .

Learn more about breast cancer in men.

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The Importance Of Absolute Risk To Relative Risk

The impact of a relative risk depends on the underlying absolute risk of a disease.

  • When a disease is rare , a high relative risk leads to only a few extra cases among those with the risk factor.
  • When a disease is more common , even a small relative risk can lead to many more cases among those with the risk factor.

We can think about relative risk in terms of money.

If you only have one dollar, this makes dollars rare. If you double your money, you only gain one extra dollar.

But, if you have one million dollars, this makes dollars common and doubling your money means you gain one million extra dollars.

In both cases, you double your money, but the increase in dollars is quite different.

The same is true with disease risk. The higher the absolute risk of getting a disease, the greater the number of extra cases that will occur for a given relative risk.

What Are Risk Factors

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The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown. But certain things can increase your chance of developing it. These are called risk factors. The risk factors for invasive breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ are similar.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will definitely get breast cancer. And if you do not have any risk factors, it does not mean you will not get it.

Breast cancer is likely to be caused by a combination of different risk factors, rather than just one.

If you are worried about breast cancer and would like to talk to someone, we’re here. You can:

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Your Race And Ethnicity

White and Black women have the highest risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latina womens breast cancer rates fall in between two major groupings while American Indian and Alaska Native women are on the lowest end of risk.

While white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than Black women overall, they tend to be diagnosed at an older age . Black women have the highest breast cancer rates among women under age 40. Black women make up a higher percentage of triple-negative breast cancer cases.

What to do: If your race or ethnicity places you at higher risk, make sure you follow all screening recommendations to improve your chances of catching cancer early.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors . Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it is hard to know just how much these factors may have contributed to her cancer.

There are different kinds of risk factors. Some factors, like a personâs age or race, canât be changed. Others are linked to cancer-causing factors in the environment. Still others are to related personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and diet. Some factors influence risk more than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle.

Studies have found the following risk factors for breast cancer:

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What Do The Experts Say

Several groups of experts have looked at the available studies on the possible link between abortion and breast cancer.

In 2003, the US National Cancer Institute held a workshop of more than 100 of the worlds leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. The experts reviewed human and animal studies that looked at the link between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortions. Some of their findings were:

  • Breast cancer risk is increased for a short time after a full-term pregnancy .
  • Induced abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.
  • Spontaneous abortion is not linked to an increase in breast cancer risk.

The level of scientific evidence for these findings was considered to be well established .

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice also reviewed the available evidence in 2003 and again in 2009. In 2009, the Committee said, Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.

What About Screening For Breast Cancer

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Evidence clearly indicates that women between the ages of 50 and 69 should have a mammogram every two years. Talk to your health care provider about the organized breast screening program in your province or territory. If you are 40-49 years of age or aged 70 or older, you are encouraged to discuss the benefits and limitations of mammography with your health care provider.

The booklet âInformation on Mammography for Women Aged 40 and Older: A Decision Aid for Breast Cancer Screening in Canadaâ is available on the Public Health Agency of Canada – Decision Aids website.

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Breast Cancer And Your Risk

For readers interested in the PDF version, the document is available for downloading or viewing:

This brochure identifies biological as well as lifestyle factors associated with breast cancer. It offers information and advice to help you better understand and address them. It also identifies common misconceptions about breast cancer and includes helpful tips and useful website addresses to help you stay informed.

It is intended for women who:

  • are 18 years of age or over and
  • do not have breast cancer or any breast problems. You should report any changes in your breasts or concern you might have about your breasts to your doctor.

Breast Cancer: Risk Factors And Prevention

Have questions about breast cancer? Ask here.

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

A risk factor is anything that increases a persons chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

Most breast cancers are sporadic, meaning they develop from damage to a persons genes that occurs by chance after they are born. There is no risk of the person passing this gene on to their children, as the underlying cause of sporadic breast cancer is environmental factors.

Inherited breast cancers are less common, making up 5% to 10% of cancers. Inherited breast cancer occurs when gene changes called mutations are passed down within a family from parent to child. Many of those mutations are in tumor suppressor genes, such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and PALB2. These genes normally keep cells from growing out of control and turning into cancer. But when these cells have a mutation, it can cause them to grow out of control.

The following factors may raise a womans risk of developing breast cancer:

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Family History Of Breast Cancer

Family history and genetics are two risk factors for breast cancer. While researchers continue to search for the definite causes of breast cancer, some consider young women at high risk for breast cancer if they have either a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and/or genetic mutations associated with breast cancer.

All cancers come from genetic mutations. Usually, these happen in specific cells during a persons life. In some cases, however, people inherit mutations that can influence cancer. When these mutations help cause breast cancer, doctors call it hereditary breast cancer.

Hereditary breast cancer may be indicated by a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer. This could mean two or more relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, a relative with both breast and ovarian cancer, a male relative with breast cancer or a relative diagnosed at a young age with breast cancer.

What Happens If You Find Out Youre At Higher Risk

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If you and your doctor determine that youre at a higher risk of breast cancer, you can decide together on next steps. Routine breast cancer screening is important for all women, but even more so for those at higher risk, so your doctor may suggest you get screened earlier and more often than other women.

You can also talk to your doctor about options for reducing your risk. Depending on your unique situation, your doctor may recommend either of the following:

  • Risk-lowering drugs. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are the only drugs FDA-approved for breast cancer risk reduction in women at higher risk. Both are taken in pill form.
  • Preventive surgery. For people with certain gene mutations, having surgery to remove their breasts may dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer. Surgical removal of the ovaries can also reduce the risk of ovarian and possibly breast cancer for certain people.

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Not Being Physically Active

Evidence is growing that regular physical activity reduces breast cancer risk, especially in women past menopause. The main question is how much activity is needed. Some studies have found that even as little as a couple of hours a week might be helpful, although more seems to be better.

Exactly how physical activity might reduce breast cancer risk isnt clear, but it may be due to its effects on body weight, inflammation, and hormone levels.

The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week . Getting to or going over the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Developing Breast Cancer

Dr. Thompson names several breast cancer risk factors:

  • Age is the strongest one, according to Dr. Thompson. As we get older, the risk increases.
  • Carrying a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes is another factor. Similarly, having a strong family history of breast cancer also increases a persons risk.
  • History of a breast biopsy that showed atypical cells, such as atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ also increases the risk.
  • Exposure to hormones is a factor that is itself impacted by factors getting a first period at a young age, number of pregnancies, breastfeeding , and late menopause, for example. The higher the exposure to estrogen and the more menstrual cycles there are in total, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer.
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    A Family History Of Breast Cancer

    Having someone in your family with breast cancer doesnt automatically mean your own risk is increased. For most people, having a relative with breast cancer does not increase their risk.

    However, a small number of women and men have an increased risk of developing breast cancer because they have a significant family history.

    Being Overweight Or Obese

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    Women who are overweight after their menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who are not overweight. Men also have an increased risk of breast cancer if they are overweight or obese. For both men and women, the risk increases as more weight is gained.

    Body mass index is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out whether you are a healthy weight. For most adults, an ideal is between 18.5 to 24.9. Being overweight means having a BMI of between 25 and 30. Obesity means being very overweight with a BMI of 30 or higher.

    Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

    Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women. The risk increases with each extra unit of alcohol per day. The number of units in a drink depends on the size of the drink, and the volume of alcohol.

    The latest UK government guidelines advise drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

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    Alcohol And Breast Density Marker

    In addition to the carcinogenic role of its metabolites, alcohol has been shown to alter estrogen levels, which may lead to changes in breast density, affecting breast cancer risk . An intermediate marker of breast cancer risk that has also been linked with many hormonal breast cancer risk factors is mammographic density, a measure of epithelial and connective tissue in the breast. Higher density confers a 4-6 fold increase in breast cancer risk . Moreover, alcohol use has been shown to modify the mammographic density-breast cancer association in a dose-response way . Associations between alcohol use and intermediate markers such as breast density provide further evidence that alcohol is truly associated with breast cancer and that this association cannot be explained by bias alone.

    Epidemiologic studies have used different measures to assess mammographic density with earlier studies using qualitative measures such as the Wolfe parenchymal patterns , and more recent studies using more quantitative methods that either use categories such as the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System or use a continuous measure ranging from 0-100% based on computer threshold programs .

    Yes Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

    • A strong body of scientific evidence shows alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer.
    • Many women remain unaware of the role alcohol can play in breast cancer risk.
    • The Alcohol Research Group in California is working to change that with the #DrinkLessForYourBreasts initiative, which seeks to educate women about the risk.
    • No amount of alcohol is considered safe, but smaller amounts of alcohol have minimal risk.

    For decades, researchers have been studying the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer, and a strong body of evidence shows drinking ups the risk.

    Despite this work, many women in the United States remain unaware that drinking habits could affect their chance of getting cancer.

    A new campaign from the Alcohol Research Group in California aims to change that. The #DrinkLessForYourBreasts initiative seeks to educate women about the risk and urges them to consider the impact drinking alcohol can have on their health.

    The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness among young women that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer, Priscilla Martinez, PhD, a scientist with ARG, told Healthline.

    There is 30 years worth of evidence supporting this so were pretty confident that this relationship is real. But the vast majority of young women have no idea that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer.

    study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found that only 25 percent of women ages 15 to 44 were aware of this connection.

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