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Breast cancer risk factors

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Understanding your risk factors

There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing breast cancer. While having one or more of these traits doesn’t guarantee you will develop breast cancer, it’s important to be aware of your risk and have regular breast health screenings, including breast self-exams.

Learn more about screening for breast cancer

Assess Your Risk

Answer these seven simple questions to assess your risk for breast cancer. Consider both your mother’s and father’s family histories when completing the family history portion of this assessment.

Personal history
  • Do you have a personal history of breast cancer before age 40?
  • Do you have a personal history of ovarian cancer?
Family history
  • Do you have a family history of breast cancer before age 50?
  • Do you have a family history of ovarian cancer?
  • Do you have a family history of male breast cancer?
  • Do you have a family member who carries a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation?
  • Are you of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, our Novant Health Cancer Risk Clinic is available as a resource. There, our physician, genetic counselor, nurse and wellness specialist will review your family history with you and discuss your screening and treatment options, as well as any lifestyle modifications you may need to consider.

Other factors

In addition to your personal and family history, there are several other factors that may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. These include:

  • Gender – Women are more likely than men to develop breast cancer.
  • Age – Women are more likely to develop breast cancer after age 60 than during their younger years.
  • Obesity – Being overweight or obese increases your risk.
  • Early menstruation – If you began menstruating before age 12, you are at an increased risk.
  • Late menopause – If you began menopause after age 55, you are at a higher risk.
  • First child after age 35 or never having children – Women who have their first child later in life, or did not have children at all, have an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure – If you’ve had chest radiation treatments as a child or adult, you are more likely to develop breast cancer later in life.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy – Hormone therapy medications increase your risk.
  • Alcohol – Drinking more than one glass a day could increase your risk.
  • High bone density – Women who have a higher bone density have a higher risk.
  • High breast density – Women who have dense breast tissue visible on a mammogram are more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Hyperplasia – Women who have had a previous biopsy that shows hyperplasia are at an increased risk.

Learn more about the Presbyterian Medical Center Cancer Risk Clinic

Learn more about the Forsyth Medical Center Hereditary Cancer Genetics Clinic