Breast Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

+ -Text Size


What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop breast cancer, while many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it’s hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed.

Some risk factors can’t be changed – like a person's age or race. Other risk factors are lifestyle-related, such as cancer-causing factors in the environment or personal behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and diet. Some factors influence risk more than others, and your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to things like aging or lifestyle.

You may also hear about risk factors with unclear effects on breast cancer risk, or risk factors that are controversial or have been disproven.

Last Medical Review: 10/09/2015
Last Revised: 10/20/2015