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Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

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What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? continued...

Slightly higher risk

  • Distant family history. This refers to breast cancer in more distant relatives such as aunts, grandmothers, and cousins.
  • Previous abnormal breast biopsy. Women with earlier biopsies showing any of the following have a slight increased risk: fibroadenomas with complex features, hyperplasia without atypia, sclerosing adenosis, and solitary papilloma.
  • Age at childbirth. Having your first child after age 35 or never having children puts you at higher risk.
  • Early menstruation. Your risk increases if you began menstruating before age 12.
  • Late menopause. If you begin menopause after age 55, your risk increases.
  • Weight. Being overweight (especially in the waist), with excess caloric and fat intake, increases your risk, especially after menopause.
  • Excessive radiation. This is especially true for women who were given radiation for postpartum mastitis, received prolonged fluoroscopic X-rays for tuberculosis, or who were exposed to a large amount of radiation before age 30 -- usually as treatment for cancers such as lymphoma.
  • Other cancer in the family. A family history of cancer of the ovaries, cervix, uterus, or colon increases your risk.
  • Heritage. Female descendents of Eastern and Central European Jews (Ashkenazi) are at increased risk.
  • Alcohol. Use of alcohol is linked to increased risk of developing breast cancer. Compared with nondrinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk, and those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1.5 times the risk of women who do not drink.
  • Race. Caucasian women are at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American women. The exception to this is African-American women, who are more likely than Caucasians to have breast cancer under age 40.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Long-term use of combined estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of breast cancer. This risk seems to return to that of the general population after discontinuing them for five years or longer.

Low risk

  • Pregnancy before age 18
  • Early onset of menopause
  • Surgical removal of the ovaries before age 37

Factors not related to breast cancer

  • Fibrocystic breast changes
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Coffee or caffeine intake
  • Use of anti-perspirants
  • Wearing underwire bras
  • Having an abortion or miscarriage
  • Using breast implants

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