Understanding Unavoidable & Lifestyle Risk Factors For Breast Cancer

Unavoidable risk factors for breast cancer are thing that we cannot control, including: 

  • Family History of Breast Cancer: Having a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer nearly doubles a woman's risk of developing the disease.
  • Aging: Risk for breast cancer increases with age.
  • Being Female: Although men can also develop breast cancer, this disease is far more prevalent in women.
  • Dense Breast Tissue: Women with dense breast tissue have a risk of developing breast cancer that is 1.5-2x higher than women without dense breast tissue.
  • Possessing a Genetic Mutation: Approximately 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be caused by hereditary gene mutations. Such mutations include:
    • A BRCA1 or BRCA2 Gene Mutation: Women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a 70% risk of developing breast cancer by age 80. Possessing a BRCA mutation also increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer at a younger age. These mutations are typically more common in women of Eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) heritage.
    • Other Gene Mutations Include: ATM, CDH1, CHEK2, PALB2, PTEN, STK11, and TP53.

Unlike the unavoidable risk factors, the following lifestyle factors involve personal behavioral and lifestyle choices associated with the development of breast cancer:

  • Alcohol Consumption: Women who drink two to three drinks a day have approximately a 20% higher risk of developing breast cancer than non-drinkers do.
  • Hormonal Birth Control: Some methods of hormonal birth control, including oral contraceptives, shots, and IUDs have been shown to slightly increase one's risk of developing breast cancer.

To read more posts about breast cancer or gynecological cancers, check out our dedicated section to the topic on our blog, Period Matters.

This is an excerpt from a post written by Food Period and originally published on October 10, 2019. Content edited and curated by Nayla Al-Mamlouk.

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