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Breast Cancer - Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

By EmpowHER January 25, 2010 - 5:24pm

Several types of risk factors exist for breast cancer. Some risk factors related to personal behavior, such as smoking and diet can be changed. However, there are factors that women can’t control that may lend themselves to developing breast caner.

Risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of having breast cancer, but cannot be changed, include:

Gender. Individuals who are female have a higher risk of breast cancer than males; of the 176,400 breast cancer diagnoses in 1999 only 1,400 of them were in men.

Ethnicity. Breast cancer is more common in Caucasian women than it is in black, Hispanic, or Asian women.

Age. It is recognized that your risk for getting breast cancer increases with age; breast cancer is quite rare for women under the age of 35. The majority of breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50; with a greatly increased risk in women over 60.

Personal history. Women who have had breast cancer face an increased risk of getting another breast cancer in either breast.

Family history. A woman's risk for developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, or daughter had breast cancer, especially at a young age.

Breast changes. Having a diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) increases a woman's risk for developing cancer.

Genetics. According to the American Cancer Society, about five to ten percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene changes (mutations) inherited from a parent. The most common mutations are those of BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who have one of these mutations are up to 85% more likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime.

Other gene changes can also increase the risk of breast cancer in women. In families in which many women have had the disease, gene testing can sometimes show the presence of specific genetic changes that increase the risk of breast cancer.

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