Risk Factors

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Risk factor

There are two types of risk factors for Breast Cancer:

Genetic Risk Factors

Gender

Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times, more often in women than in men.

Age

Two out of three women with invasive cancer are diagnosed after the age of 55.

Family History

If your mother, sister, father or family member has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Your risk increases if your relative was diagnosed before the age of 50.

Personal Health History

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the other breast. Also, your risk increases if abnormal breast cells have been detected before (such as atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Mensural & Reproductive History

Early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after 55), having your first child at an older age, or never given birth, can also increase your risk for breast cancer.

Dense Breast Tissue

Having dense breast tissue can increase your risk for breast cancer and make lumps harder to detect. Be sure to ask your physician if you have dense breasts and what the implications of having dense breasts are.


Environmental & Lifestyle Risk Factors

Lack of Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Poor Diet

A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.

Being Overweight or Obese

Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.

Radiation on the Chest

Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increase the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

Breastfeeding

Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it is continued for 1½ to 2 years. One explanation for this effect may be that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles (similar to starting menstrual periods at a later age or going through early menopause).

Smoking

Smoking causes several diseases and is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger and premenopausal women. Research shows there may be a link between very heavy second-hand smoke exposure and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Drinking Alcohol

Consumption of alcohol can increase your risk of breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater is the risk.

Alcohol

Stage III

Stage III is divided into subcategories known as IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

Stage IIIA describes invasive breast cancer in which either:

  • IIIA describes invasive breast cancer in which either:
    • No tumour is found in the breast or a tumour may be any size; cancer is found in 4 to 9 axillary lymph nodes or in the lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during imaging tests or a physical exam) OR
    • A tumour is larger than 5 centimetres; small groups of breast cancer cells (larger than 0.2 millimetres but not larger than 2 millimetres) are found in the lymph nodes OR
    • A tumour is larger than 5 centimetres; cancer has spread to 1 to 3 axillary lymph nodes or to the lymph nodes near the breastbone (found during a sentinel lymph node biopsy)

Stage IIIB describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • A tumour may be any size and has spread to the chest wall and/or skin of the breast and caused swelling or an ulcer AND
  • It May have spread to up to 9 axillary lymph nodes OR
  • It May have spread to lymph nodes near the breastbone

Stage IIIC describes invasive breast cancer in which:

  • There may be no sign of cancer in the breast or, if there is a tumour, it may be any size and may have spread to the chest wall and/or the skin of the breast AND
  • Cancer has spread to 10 or more axillary lymph nodes OR
  • Cancer has spread to lymph nodes above or below the collarbone OR
  • Cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes or lymph nodes near the breastbone

Stage IV

Stage IV describes invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs of the body, such as the lungs, distant lymph nodes, skin, bones, liver, or brain.

You may hear the words “advanced” and “metastatic” used to describe stage IV breast cancer. Cancer may be stage IV at first diagnosis, or it can be a recurrence of previous breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

United Against Breast Cancer