Know Your Risk: Lifestyle And Genetic Risk Factors For Breast Cancer


Breast cancer is one of the most deadly cancers for women. That’s why it’s so important not only to be regularly tested for breast cancer but also to know your risk.

Risk factors are anything that affects your likelihood of developing a disease such as breast cancer. Risk factors don’t mean for sure that you’ll develop or won’t develop breast cancer. But it’s important to manage the risk factors you can control to reduce your risk.

Am I At Greater Risk For Breast Cancer?
There are two differences types of risk factors that can affect your chances of developing breast cancer. The first type is lifestyle-related risk factors. These are factors you’re able to control.

The most common lifestyle-related risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Alcohol consumption. According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk. Women who drink one alcoholic beverage a day experience a small increased risk compared to non-drinkers. Those who drink two to three alcoholic beverages a day have a 20% higher risk.
  • Weight. Women who are overweight may be at greater risk for breast cancer because of the estrogen that comes from a woman’s fat tissue. After menopause, a woman’s ovaries stop making estrogen. But fat tissue can still raise estrogen levels and increase your chance of breast cancer.
  • Hormone therapy after menopause. Similar to being overweight, hormone therapy increases your body’s estrogen, which increases your risk of breast cancer.

The second type of risk factors for breast cancer are genetic-related factors. These are the risk factors you’re born with and aren’t able to control.

The most common genetics-related risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Early period. Children who have their period before the age of 12 are at higher risk for breast cancer by a small percentage because they’re exposed to hormones for a longer.
  • Family history of breast cancer. Compared to those without a family history, women with a first-degree (parent, child, or sibling) female relative who have had or currently have breast cancer are twice as likely to be affected.
  • Dense breasts. Dense breasts are breasts that have more connective tissue than fatty tissue. Those who have dense breasts are up to six times more likely to get breast cancer. It’s also more difficult to see tumors in dense breasts on a mammogram. A breast biopsy may be necessary if possible tumors are detected.

Mammography is a great way to reduce your risk of breast cancer by testing for it early on. To learn more about mammography, breast biopsy procedures, breast MRI interpretations, or to schedule your second opinion consultations regarding your mammography results or biopsy, contact Carolina Breast Imaging Specialists today.