Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Being over 60, having a family history of breast cancer, and experiencing certain changes in breast tissue can increase a person's chances of developing the condition. Other risk factors for breast cancer include being overweight or obese after menopause, a lack of physical activity, and excessive consumption of alcohol. Women with risk factors, however, will not necessarily get the disease.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer: An Introduction

In most cases, doctors do not know the exact cause or causes of breast cancer. They often cannot explain why one woman develops the disease and another does not.
They do know that bumping, bruising, or touching the breast does not cause cancer. And breast cancer is not contagious. You cannot "catch" it from another person.
Breast cancer research has shown that women with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop the disease. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a condition. Anything that decreases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a protective factor. Breast cancer prevention involves avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chances of developing cancer decrease.

Specific Risk Factors

Studies have identified the following breast cancer risk factors:
  • Age (most cases occur in women over 60)
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Certain breast changes
  • Gene changes
  • Reproductive and menstrual history
  • Race (Caucasian women are at greater risk than women of other races)
  • Radiation to the chest
  • Breast density
  • Taking DES (diethylstilbestrol -- a synthetic estrogen)
  • Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator to check your weight status)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol.
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Information on Breast Cancer

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