Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer (after skin cancer) in women in the United States, with approximately 180,000 cases expected in 2007. It causes the death of more than 40,000 women each year, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.
A woman's risk of developing breast cancer increases with age; more than three out of four breast cancer cases occur in women over age 50.
Other risk factors include:
- A family history of breast cancer
- A prior history of breast cancer or certain other abnormalities of the breast tissue
- Increased exposure to the female hormone estrogen
- Having a first menstrual period before age 13
- Entering menopause after age 51
- Using estrogen replacement therapy
- Never having been pregnant
- First pregnancy after age 30
- Being overweight, especially after menopause
- Drinking alcohol (cancer risk doubles with three or more drinks per day)
- Having a sedentary lifestyle with little regular exercise
The most important risk factor is simply being female. Most breast cancer survivors had no family history at all! And keep in mind, fibrocystic disease is NOT a risk factor for breast cancer.