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Risk Factors

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The most important risk factors are family history and hormonal factors. Other risk factors include:

  • Female gender
  • Older age
  • Breast cancer in first degree relative
  • Prior history of breast cancer
  • History of atypical ductal or lobular hyperplasia or carcinoma in situ
  • Early menarche, early menopause, late first full-term pregnancy (before age  35)
  • Hormone replacement therapy use for more than 5years
  • Obesity
  • History of radiation therapy

If a woman has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, her risk of breast cancer approximately doubles.  About 20-30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of breast cancer.

Approximately 5-10% of breast cancers are due to a gene mutation that is inherited from the woman’s mother or father.  The most common are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.  These are also associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and these women are often diagnosed at a younger age (before age 50) and have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer during their life.

Men with a BRCA1 mutation have a 1% risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, and with the BRCA2 mutation a 6% risk.


Shikha Jain, MD