The exact cause of breast cancer is still unknown, but a combination of genetic, environmental, lifestyle and other factors may increase the risk of getting the disease. A better understanding of the risk factors may help prevent breast cancer. Here are the top 14 risk factors for breast cancer.
Advancing age is a risk factor. As a woman grow older, the risk increases. For instance, from age 35 to 40 years, the probability is 0.5%; It increases up to 1 percent or more from age 40 to 50 years. By the time a woman reaches 55 to 60 years, the probability increases up to 4 to 5 percent.
If a woman has a close relative diagnosed with ovarian or breast tumour or many relatives affected by the disease, the probability of getting it increases. Furthermore, the probability of getting the disease increases when her first-degree relative (sister, daughter, mother) had breast cancer before they turned 50.
Personal History of Benign Lumps
A woman who has had benign or malignant lumps could be at a higher risk of developing it again. Malignant lumps could develop again in the same or the other breast. Therefore, a personal history of breast cancer increases the risk.
Excess body fat increases the likelihood of getting cancer. Ovaries stop the production of estrogen hormone after menopause. In a woman’s body, fat tissues thus become the primary source of estrogen after menopause. Therefore, excess fat tissue means high levels of estrogen hormone and thus increased the risk of breast cancer.
Physical Inactivity or Sedentary Lifestyle
Your lifestyle epitomizes your health. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of breast cancer. Several research studies show that women who are very conscious about their physical activities are less likely to get breast cancer when compared to their inactive counterparts. A piece of growing evidence shows that 30 to 40 minutes of physical activity or exercise five days a week can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.
Smoking increases cancer risk in women. Passive smoking or second-hand smoke can also increase breast cancer risk in women.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
The amount of alcohol a woman drinks is linked to breast cancer risk. The more is the amount of alcohol consumed, the higher is the risk of developing breast cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption disturbs the normal functioning of the liver, which in turn causes disturbance in estrogen levels in the blood – thus increasing breast cancer risk.
Radiation Exposure to the Chest
Women who have had undergone radiation therapy as a treatment for another type of cancer are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk seems to be significantly higher when the treatment was given when they were in their teen years.
Early Menstruation or Puberty
A woman is more likely to develop breast cancer if her periods start early (early menarche). The risk decreases by up to 5% for every year delay in periods.
Late menopause slightly increases the risk of breast cancer in women due to longer lifetime exposure to her own estrogen levels.
A woman who never had a complete-term pregnancy is more likely to develop breast cancer.
Post-menopausal Hormone Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT – estrogen and progesterone): Taking these two hormones together or estrogen alone for more than 10 years can increase the risk of breast cancer in women. As estrogen hormone stimulates breast cancer cell growth, prolong exposure without any intermittent breaks can increase the risk.
Having First Pregnancy after 30 Years
A woman who had her first full-term pregnancy after age 30 years is at increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Women Who Do Not breastfeed
Women who do not breastfeed their babies may be at slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer. They can significantly lower their risk by continuing breastfeeding for up to 18 months or two years.