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Q.

What are the risk factors for developing breast cancer?

Related Topics: Breast Cancer
 

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

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A.

The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender and age. Men can develop breast cancer, but women are 100 times more likely to develop breast cancer than men. Breast cancer is 400 times more common in women who are 50 years old as compared to those who are 20 years old.

Family history

Another important risk factor is having first-degree relatives (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer or male relatives with prostate cancer. The risk is especially higher if both the mother and sister have had breast cancers, if the cancers in first-degree relatives occurred early in life (before age 50), or if the cancers in these relatives were found in both breasts. Having a male relative with breast cancer and having both relatives with breast and ovarian cancers also increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Families with multiple members with other cancers may have a genetic defect leading to a higher risk of breast cancer.

Women who have inherited defective BRCA1, BRCA2, p53, and DNA repair genes have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, sometimes at early ages, as discussed previously.

Previous breast cancer

A woman with a history of breast cancer can develop a recurrence of the same breast cancer years later if the cancer cells had already spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. A woman with previous breast cancer also has a three- to fourfold greater chance of developing another breast cancer in the opposite breast.

Other breast conditions

Even though most women with fibrocystic breasts and its related breast symptoms do not have increased risk of developing breast cancer, the lumpy texture and density of the breasts may hamper early cancer detection by breast examination or by mammography. Sometimes, women with fibrocystic breast changes have to undergo breast biopsies (obtaining small tissue samples from the breast for examination under a microscope) to make certain that palpable lumps are not cancerous.

Breast biopsies sometimes may reveal abnormal, though not yet cancerous, cell changes (called atypical hyperplasia). Women with atypical hyperplasia of the breast tissue have about a four-to fivefold enhanced likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Radiation therapy

Women with a history of radiation therapy to the chest area as treatment for another cancer (such as Hodgkin's disease or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) have a significantly increased risk for breast cancer, particularly if the radiation treatment was received at a young age.

Hormonal factors

Women who started their menstrual periods before age 12, those who have late menopause (after age 55), and those who had their first pregnancy after age 30, or who have never had children have a mildly increased risk of developing breast cancer (less than two times the normal risk). Early onset of menses, late arrival of menopause, and late or no pregnancies are all factors that increase a woman's lifetime level of estrogen exposure.

Studies have confirmed that long-term use (several years or more) of hormone therapy (HT) after menopause, particularly estrogens and progesterone combined, leads to an increase in risk for development of breast cancer. This risk appears to return to normal if a woman has not used hormone therapy for five years or more. Similarly, some studies show birth control pills cause a small increased risk of breast cancer, but this risk also returns to normal after 10 years of nonuse.

Lifestyle factors

Dietary factors such as high-fat diets and alcohol consumption have also been implicated as factors that increase the risk for breast cancer. Cigarette smoking, caffeine intake, antiperspirant use, bras, breast implants, miscarriages or abortions, and stress do not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer. 

Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, and this risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with nondrinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. However, those who have two to five drinks daily have about one and a half times the risk of women who drink no alcohol.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

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Archived: March 20, 2014

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Read the Original Article: Breast Cancer Prevention