Breast Cancer Risks

Although we do not know how to prevent breast cancer, it is possible to reduce your risk of developing the disease. Some risk factors, such as age, race, family history of the disease, and reproductive history cannot be changed. However, lifestyle factors such as reducing alcohol use, engaging in regular physical activity, and staying at a healthy weight are all linked to lower risk.

Being a woman is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer, but men can develop breast cancer, too.

The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Two out of three women with invasive breast cancer are 55 or older when they are diagnosed.

Breast cancer risk is higher among women who have a family history of the disease. Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer increases a woman's risk. However, most women with breast cancer do not have a first-degree relative with the disease.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Taking postmenopausal hormone therapy (especially combined estrogen and progestin therapy)
  • Being overweight or obese, especially if weight is gained after menopause
  • Drinking alcohol, especially two or more drinks daily
  • Not being physically active
  • Having a long menstrual history
  • Never having children or having your first child after age 30
  • Having previous chest radiation to treat a different cancer
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer
  • Having certain non-cancerous breast conditions