Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Anything that increases the
chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. There
are different kinds of risk factors including genetics,
environment, age, race, and personal
choices such as drinking or smoking.
Having a risk factor does not necessarily mean that you will
get cancer. Even when a woman with breast cancer has a risk
factor, there is not way to prove that it actually caused her
cancer. There are some risk factors that cannot be changed,
such as gender, age, and race.
If you are female, your gender is the main risk factor for
developing breast cancer. While it's true that men can develop
breast cancer, it is about 100 times more common among women
than men. The female breast cells are constantly exposed to the
growth promoting effects of the female hormones estrogen and
progesterone. These hormones make the breast vulnerable to
Genetics pose a risk factor in developing breast cancer.
People who have a family history of breast cancer or ovarian
cancer are at higher risk of developing the disease than those
who have no family history. Your risk can more than double if
you have a direct relative who has been diagnosed with breast
cancer before the age of 50. This includes a mother, sister,
grandmother, or aunt.
If you have inherited certain genes from a parent, you are
at increased risk for breast cancer. These genetic mutations
are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes normally help
to prevent cancer by making proteins that keep cells from
growing abnormally. However, if these genes mutate, your risk
for developing breast cancer increases dramatically.
As you age, your risk of developing breast cancer increase.
Approximately 80 percent of invasive breast cancer is diagnosed
in women who are 50 years of age or older. About 15 percent of
cancer diagnoses occur in women in their 40s. The remaining 5
percent occur in women between the ages of 13 and 39.
Your race also plays a role in breast cancer risk. Caucasian
women have a higher incidence of breast cancer than
African-American women. However, African-American women tend to
have more aggressive forms of breast cancer and are more likely
to die from the disease. Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American
women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
may be a risk factor in developing breast cancer. Alcohol
consumption and high-fat diets have shown to increase the risk
of developing breast cancer. Alcohol is also known to increase
the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, and