Common Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

By GeneType

There are a lot of different risk factors associated with breast cancer development. This article will take a really broad look at some of the general risk factors--but we will dig deeper into each risk factor in subsequent posts! Stay-tuned, or join our email list to stay informed! 

Where to begin?! There are so many little risk factors! When I say little, it means that the risk factor all by itself amounts to a little bit of risk. Alone, the risk factor does not really seem too important. But, when you start looking at all of these little risk factors together...they start to pile up. Think of a children's block tower.


We've put together a list of risk factors. We will dedicate other pages to go into the details of each risk factor individually.

The bigger risk factors:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Biopsy status including atypical hyperplasia or LCIS
  • Radiation treatment as a child


The smaller risk factors (that can still add up):

  • Breast density
  • Height
  • BMI after menopause
  • Age at your 1st period
  • Given birth before
  • Birthweight
  • Your age at the birth of your 1st child
  • How long ago you last gave birth
  • Oral contraception use
  • Age at menopause
  • Hormone replacement therapy use
  • Previous negative biopsy findings
  • Alcohol intake
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Night shift work
  • Race and ethnicity


These are just some of the risk factors that can influence your risk of developing breast cancer. We define some as "bigger" risk factors--think of this as the risk being a bit more "important" than another risk factor--if we had to compare them.

Risk assessment models take some of these risk factors into account. No risk assessment looks at the exact same combination of factors. In some circumstances, your clinician may use a combination of risk models to get the best picture of your risk. Ultimately the goal of looking at and understanding your risk factors is to be able to address small changes you might be able to make. Small changes might be lifestyle habits, but it might also be just an increased awareness on your part. Knowing your personal risk factors may also help you stay vigilant with your screening schedule.

Tags: breastcancer, cancer, riskassessment, genetictesting, genetics, geneticrisk, breasthealth, breastdensity

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