Recent research at the CDC has linked several risk factors with the chances a person has of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. These risk factors include gender, age, certain types of medicine and medical treatment, as well as both genetic and lifestyle factors. However, having one or even several risk factors is not an indication that developing breast cancer is imminent.

Who Is At Risk?

Women are far more likely than men to develop breast cancer. Additionally, there are factors both early and late in life that indicate risk factors.  Older women are more likely to develop breast cancer than younger women. Those who give birth to their first child later in life, or enter menopause after age 55 are also at greater risk. Additionally, women who choose not to breastfeed are at an increased risk of developing the cancer. On the other end of the spectrum, experiencing the first menstrual period at a younger age (generally before 12 years) can also be considered a risk factor.

What Medical Treatments Add Risk?

Radiation treatment or exposure to the chest/breast area, especially at a younger stage of life, has been linked to developing breast cancer later in life.  Hormone replacement therapy including estrogen and progesterone in post-menopausal women is also considered a risk factor for developing the disease.  

Genetics And Recurrent Risks

A family history of breast cancer, as well as carrying the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, are both considered risk factors for developing the disease.  Women who have had a mother, sister, or aunt develop breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease themselves, particularly if they are carriers of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. 

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Still, the majority of people who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease; however, women who have had any type of cancer, especially women who have already had breast cancer, are at an increased risk of experiencing a recurrence of breast cancer.

Lifestyle Contributions

Women who are obese are at an increased risk of developing this type of cancer; fat tissue produces estrogen that may help stimulate different types of cancer, among them breast cancer.  Additionally, a lack of regular exercise and excessive consumption of alcohol, over a prolonged period of time are considered contributing factors in the development of breast cancer. 

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic are quick to point out that having one or even several risk factors is not a guarantee that you will develop breast cancer, and that many women who develop the disease have no risk factors at all other than their gender.