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Breast Cancer Risk Factors

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Certain risk factors of breast cancer can't be prevented such as aging or family history. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk. Beaumont created the Comprehensive Breast Care Centers to help reduce the devastating effects of the disease on our community through cancer prevention and early detection, when the chances of successful treatment are highest.

Beaumont sponsors a variety of education and community outreach programs to help women take a proactive role in guarding their own health. For women over age 40, that means providing state-of-the-art breast imaging facilities. And for women whose risk factors are high, the High-Risk Evaluation Clinic can schedule twice-yearly clinical breast evaluations and other services in a caring and supportive setting.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Any woman may develop breast cancer. However, the following risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing the disease.

Risk factors that cannot be changed:

  • gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.
  • race/ethnicity: It has been noted that Caucasian women develop breast cancer slightly more often than African-American women. However, African-American women tend to die of breast cancer more often. This is may be partly due to the fact that African-American women often develop a more aggressive type of tumor, although why this happens is not known. The risk for developing breast cancer and dying from it is lower in Hispanic, Native American, and Asian women.
  • aging: Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after age 55.
  • personal history of breast cancer
  • previous breast irradiation
  • family history and genetic factors: Having a close relative, such as a mother or sister, with breast cancer increases the risk. This includes changes in certain genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, and others.
  • benign breast disease
  • previous breast biopsy in which the tissue showed atypical hyperplasia
  • menstrual periods that began early in life
  • menopause that began later in life

The most frequently cited lifestyle-related risk factors:

  • not having children, or first child after age 30
  • oral contraceptives
  • obesity and a high-fat diet
  • physical inactivity
  • alcohol
  • long-term, post-menopausal use of combined estrogen and progestin (HRT)
  • weight gain and obesity after menopause

Environmental risk factors:

  • exposure to pesticides, or other chemicals, is currently being examined as a possible risk factor.