What are Breast Cancer Risk Factors?

Susan K. Williford, M.D., Medical Oncologist Explains

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Of course being a female is the number one risk factor for breast cancer, although we do see breast cancer in males, it is very rare. Another risk factor for breast cancer is family history. Although, eighty percent of patients we see have no family history of breast cancer, of the twenty percent that do, five to seven percent of these may have one of the breast cancer genes called brca1 and 2. This makes a woman at risk for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Other risk factors for breast cancer include taking estrogens and progesterone, although more research is being done with this. Also sedentary lifestyle, very dense breasts, a typical changes or lobular carcinoma in situ on a breast biopsy, and prior radiation therapy to the chest wall.

Throughout a woman’s life she may experience many changes in her breast especially around the time of her menstrual cycle. Things that should bring attention to the woman are changes in the nipple, especially nipple discharge, a lump in the breast that is hard like a small almond or pee, a rash on the breast that does not go away or swelling in the breast that does not go away. Although these may not be cancer they should be brought to the attention of the physician and the patient should go to the office for an exam.

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