A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors.
But risk factors don’t tell us everything. Having a risk factor, or even several, does not mean that you will get the disease. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors. Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it is hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed.
Some risk factors, like a person’s age or race, can’t be changed. Others are linked to cancer-causing factors in the environment. Still others are related to personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and diet. Some factors influence risk more than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle.
There are 12 risk factors for breast cancer:
Your risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. About 1 out of 8 invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older.
Simply being a woman is the main risk factor for developing breast cancer. Men can develop breast cancer, but this disease is about 100 times more common among women than men. This is probably because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth
3. Family history:
If you have relatives or family members with breast cancer, then your chances of suffering are also high. There are certain genes which result in breast cancer if they have mutations in them. These mutated genes can be passed on from the parent to the child. About 5-10% of all breast cancer cases are likely to be inherited from the parent carrying the mutated gene.
4. Early menstruation:
Your age at your first menstrual period may have something to do with your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. A review of studies analysing the relation between the onset of menarche and risk for breast cancer found that for every year delay in the onset of menstruation, the risk of premenopausal breast cancer decreases by 9% and postmenopausal breast cancer by 4%.
5. Late menopause:
It’s the opposite for menopause. With every year delay in menopause (after the age of 45 years), your risk of developing breast cancer may increase by 3%. So, a woman who goes through menopause at the age of 55 years has a 30% increased risk of breast cancer than women who go through menopause at the age of 45 years.
6.Benign breast disease
This encompasses a diverse range of conditions of the breast, most of which are not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cysts are not associated with any significant risk.
7.Delayed pregnancy or no pregnancy:
Not giving birth to a child puts you at a higher risk of breast cancer. A woman who gives birth to children has a 30% lowered risk than a woman who was never pregnant.
Breastfeeding (for 12 months) reduces you chances of breast cancer by 4% compared to women who never breast feed. Moreover, the risk further reduces with longer period of breast feeding.
Woman who began smoking before the age of 20 and those who started at least five years before their first pregnancy seem to be most at risk. Heavy smoking or smoking over a long period of time also increases the risk. There is no evidence that passive smoking increases ones risk. Also, on a positive note, researchers found no evidence of a significantly higher risk in former smokers.
One study showed that for women with a close blood relative with the disease, daily alcohol consumption appeared to more than double the risk of breast cancer. A more recent study found that 60 percent of breast cancer cases in women worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption. But the mechanism(s) of alcohol-induced breast cancer are poorly understood.
11. Hormone replacement therapy:
Use of hormone therapy is common these days among women who want to relieve their symptoms of menopause. The risk is higher in women who take combined therapy (estrogen and progesterone). Combined hormone replacement therapy is also thought to increase mortality risk in breast cancer.
12. Exposure to radiation: We all know that radiation of any kind can induce mutation and cause cancer. For breast cancer, too, exposure to moderate or high intensity of radiation can increase the risk of breast cancer.