Breast Cancer Review
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer often develops in women with no clear risk factors for the disease. But it is important for women to have knowledge of the various risk factors for breast cancer because some of the risks can be changed, maybe helping to inhibit the development of the disease. Unfortunately, there are women with risk factors that cannot be changed; just knowing about them, however, can help those women be aware of their higher inclination. This knowledge can then be a means of protection.

It seems that breast cancer runs in families; so if a woman has a close relative, like a mother or sister, with breast cancer, then her chances of developing the disease are much greater. There are inherited gene changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that strongly increase the development of breast cancer. Along with the female gender, race is a risk also because there is a higher incidence in white women. If a person already has a history of breast cancer, her chances of a recurrence are greater. For those who had therapeutic radiation of the chest, as needed in certain diseases like Hodgkins, their chances of breast cancer are also increased. Other risk factors for breast cancer involve the early onset of menses and the lateness of menopause, along with aging (higher incidence in women over 50). If a woman was given diethylstilbestrol (DES) for prevention of miscarriage, which was prevalent before the l970s, this will also adversely affect her chances of developing cancer.

But there are many risk factors for breast cancer that can be changed before they may unfavorably affect its development. It is noted that women who have their children after their late 20s, or have no children at all, are at higher risk. (But it is interesting to note that breast-feeding may actually discourage development of the disease.) Moderate obesity has been shown to have an impact on breast cancer, as well as, diets high in fats. Studies have concluded that environmental pollution is also a risk factor. Heavy alcohol intake and sedentary life styles both increase chances of development of this disease. The use of estrogen replacement therapy and the use of oral contraceptives are both linked to breast cancer. Smoking is one of the big risk factors in breast cancer development.

So, it is recommended that women stay active, watch their weight, have children and breast-feed, use alcohol moderately, avoid ERT (estrogen replacement therapy), limit contraceptive use, live in pollution-free areas when possible, and do not smoke. This way of life takes the risk factors for breast cancer that a woman can control and turns them back to the positive side. Plainly stated, breast tumor development may be limited by these simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

Janet Brown is a medical writer and graduate of Loyola University New Orleans. Her personal experiences with breast cancer have drawn her to her current work developing breast cancer patient education and awareness materials. She currently lives in Georgia.

Breast Cancer Resources

American Cancer Society

People Living With Cancer

United States National Library of Medicine

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Health Coverage from Health Insurance .org

WebMD Health

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

National Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Y-ME National Breast Cancer Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Women’s Information Network Against Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Cancer News On the Net

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition

Mothers Supporting Daughters With Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Online

National Breast Cancer Coalition

Breast Cancer Fund

Breast Cancer Action

Breast Cancer Care

Breast Cancer Campaign

Cancer BACUP

Canadian Breast Cancer Network

Breast Cancer Society of Canada

Breast Cancer Action – Ottawa

Info Breast Cancer

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

National Breast Cancer Centre

National Breast Cancer Foundation

New South Wales Breast Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Stages
Known Risk Factors
Breast Cancer Survival
Recurrence Information
Breast Cancer Metastasis
Detection and Diagnosis
Male Breast Cancer

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