Breast cancer is often found in women around menopause. However, women and men of any age have been diagnosed with the disease. Several risk factors contribute to breast cancer. If you have one or more of the following, make sure you do your self-exams monthly, get a mammogram yearly, and consider genetic testing.
Age. As you get older, the chances of getting breast cancer increase.
Alcohol use. Drinking alcohol is associated with elevated risk for many types of cancer, including breast. Heavy alcohol use damages DNA and may increase hormone levels, two factors related to breast cancer.
Family history. Women with a close blood relative (mom, sister, daughter, aunt, etc.,) have a higher risk.
Environmental factors. DES (diethylstilbestrol) is a synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen found in animal feed and in some medicines that may increase the risk of breast cancer. Further, some pesticides have been shown to mimic estrogen hormonal effects in women.
Tobacco use. Like alcohol, smoking increases the risk of getting many types of cancer. This is a modifiable risk.
Genetic risk factors. This is the most common factor in the increased risk of breast cancer. The genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are mutated genes inherited from parents and those with this mutation have a high risk of developing cancer in their lifetime.
DNA changes. Cancer is closely related to DNA damage, with an accumulation of damage possibly leading to abnormal cell division. Environmental toxins, lifestyle behaviors, and genetics all can cause damage to DNA over time.
Current or recent use of birth control pills. A few studies have shown a small increased risk in women who have used oral contraceptives before the birth of their first child.
Family history of breast cancer.
Exposure to ionizing radiation. Radiation directed at the chest early in life raises the risk of breast cancer.
Dense breast tissue. Women with denser breast tissue that is seen on a mammogram have a higher risk.
Postmenopausal obesity. If your weight is in the range of obesity, your risk is higher.
More monthly periods. There is a slightly higher risk if you started menstruating early or had menopause late.
Delayed childbirth. If you had your first baby after the age of 35 the risk of breast cancer goes up.
Absence of pregnancies. If you have never been pregnant, there is a higher risk of breast cancer.
Not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding may lower the risk of getting breast cancer.
Using hormone replacement. Hormone replacement used after menopause increases the risk.