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Causes & Risk Factors

Being a woman puts you at risk of getting breast cancer. This risk increases as you grow older. Several factors further increase your risk.

A woman is at a higher than average risk for breast cancer if one or more of the following applies to her:

  • Family history of breast cancer, especially in a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter), or two or more close relatives such as cousins
  • Genetic alterations in certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Benign conditions - atypical ductal hyperplasia, atypical lobular hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in-situ diagnosed on breast biopsy
  • Early menarche (onset of menstruation) before the age of 12
  • Late menopause (after the age of 55)
  • Never had children
  • Late childbearing (after the age of 30)
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Obesity
  • Excessive weight gain in post-menopausal women
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time
  • Use of combined hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) for a long period of time

However, most women who have breast cancer have none of the above risk factors. Likewise, not possessing any of these risk factors does not mean that you will not get breast cancer. There are ongoing researches to learn more about these factors, as well as, ways to prevent breast cancer.