Breast Cancer Risk Factors

When evaluating if you at are risk for breast cancer, multiple factors play a role. Some of those factors are controllable while others such as gender and family history are beyond one’s control. Factors that can increase risk of breast cancer include:

  • Gender – Women are at higher risk than men.
  • Age – Risk increases with age.
  • Personal History – Breast abnormalities (atypical hyperplasia) and/or cancer, and breast biopsies.
  • Family History – Family history of breast or ovarian cancer, particularly the number of first-degree relatives (mother, sisters, daughters) with breast cancer.
  • Menstrual Periods – Menstruation at a young age (younger than 12 years old), having gone through menopause at a late age (older than 55 years old).
  • Pregnancy History – First pregnancy later in life (after age 30) or never having had a pregnancy.
  • Prior Radiation Therapy – If you had radiation therapy to the chest as a child or young adult such as treatment for Hodgkin’s disease.
  • Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – If you took diethylstilbestrol (was given in the 1940s-60s, to try to decrease the chance of miscarriage) or if your mother took DES.
  • Dense Breast Tissue – Increased breast density on mammography makes it more difficult to spot abnormalities.
  • Alcohol Use – Those who have two to five drinks daily have about 1-1/2 times the risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who drink no alcohol.
  • Obesity – Being overweight or obese has been found to increase breast cancer risk, especially for women after menopause.