Breast Cancer Risk Factors

  • Increasing Age
  • Female​
  • Genetic Mutations (Brca 1 & Brca 2)​
  • Family History (One Or More Immediate Family Members)​
  • Personal History of Breast Cancer​
  • Radiation Treatment to the Chest as a Child
  • Age of Menstrual Cycle <12 Years Old
  • Menopause > 55 Years Old​*
  • Post Menopausal Weight Gain
  • Being Overweight
  • Alcohol Consumption ( >2 Drinks A Day)
  • Childbearing after the age of 35 
  • Ashkenazi Jewiksh Heritage
  • High Levels of Estrogen
  • Lobular Carcinoma Insitu
  • Post Menopausal Hormone Use
  • Dense breast tissue (not a risk factor per se but could delay diagnosis)

Myths About Breast Cancer

Men can't get breast cancer.

Men account for 1% of all breast cancers in the US. Any unexplained lump in a male breast should be evaluated by a health care provider.

Deodorants can cause breast cancer.

This is probably the most popular breast cancer myth of all. It has to do with certain underarm products that contain preservatives called parabens. These chemicals can act like the hormone estrogen in the body. Estrogen is known to fuel certain breast cancers. Many breast cancers develop in the part of the breast closest to the armpit, where antiperspirants and other underarm products are used.

Now a new study shows that yes, there is evidence of parabens in 99% of breast tissue samples taken from women with breast cancer, but many of these women did not use any underarm products. Most major brands of deodorants and antiperspirants no longer contain parabens.
Mammograms cause breast cancers.

The amount of radiation is so low that there is no doubt that mammograms are safe. There is a standard for safety established for mammograms by the American College of Radiology.

I’m too young to get breast cancer.

Breast cancer can affect women of any age. Although the disease is more common in post-menopausal women, 25% of women with breast cancer are younger than 50. Younger women should have a yearly breast exam by their doctor and begin mammographic screening at age 40. A breast mass in a younger woman is much less likely to be cancer than a lump in an older woman, however, it still needs to be checked out.

You only get breast cancer if you have a family history. I don't have a family history, so I don't need to worry about it.

Greater than 80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. We do know that being older and female are the greatest risk factors for breast cancer. Even if you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, you should be getting your clinical breast exams yearly and getting your yearly mammograms starting at age 40.

I eat a very healthy diet, therefore, I am immune to breast cancer.

Diet does play a role in cancer development, but not by itself. No one food or vitamin will prevent breast cancer. At the same time, no one food is responsible for causing cancer. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and strive to get a variety of nutrients.

My mammogram was normal, so I don't have to worry about breast cancer.

While mammography does catch the vast majority of breast cancers, it is only one screening tool. Women should also have a breast exam done by their health care provider each year. If you feel a lump, always get it checked out, even if your last mammogram was clear.

Women with small breasts have a very low risk of developing breast cancer.

The amount of breast tissue a woman has does not affect her risk factor for developing breast cancer. Breast cancer can affect small or large breasted women.

Underwire bras can cause breast cancer.

A few years ago, a book was published stating that underwire bras may cause breast cancer. This is completely untrue and there is are no credible studies to support that wearing an underwire bra can cause breast cancer.

If a breast lump is not painful it is not cancer.

Generally breast cancers are painless, but pain alone cannot rule out cancer. Some women also believe that a painless lump must not be cancer. Again, not true. There's no correlation between whether the lump is painful and whether it's cancerous. Any lump should be checked by a doctor.

If cancer is exposed to air during surgery, it will spread.

Surgery will not cause the cancer to spread.

If I'm diagnosed with breast cancer, it means I'm going to die.

Breast cancer is not a death sentence. We have more tools in our arsenal to combat the disease, and most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive.

I've made it five years as a survivor, so my breast cancer won't return.

Breast cancer can recur at any time, although it is more likely to happen within the first 5 to 10 years. Even after a mastectomy, your risk of breast cancer returning is never 0%. New hormonal therapies, including tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, may be delaying recurrence, so that the cancer is more likely to return after the woman stops taking those drugs.

Assessment Tool

Take Your Risk Assessment Today

The Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool is an interactive tool designed by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) to estimate a woman's risk of developing invasive breast cancer. The tool has been updated for African American women based on the Contraceptive and Reproductive Experiences (CARE) Study, and for Asian and Pacific Islander women in the United States based on the Asian American Breast Cancer Study (AABCS). 

Take Your Risk Assessment Today!

No Increase or Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Hair Dyes
  • Abortion
  • Deodorant
  • Breast Implants
  • Elecromagnetic Fields
  • Aspirin Use
  • Dairy Consumption
  • Soy Intake

Factors Still Under Study

Breast Risk Factors Under Study

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Trauma to the Breast
  • Breast Size
  • Caffeine Use
  • Cell Phones
  • Hair Relaxers
  • Underwire in Bras