Your Breast Cancer Risk

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These factors increase your risk for getting breast cancer:

  • Age — Risk increases with age, especially after age 50
  • Gender — Women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men, but men can get it, too
  • Race — White, non-Hispanic women have the highest overall rate for breast cancer in the United States. African-American women who are ages 40 to 50 have a higher incidence than white women.
  • Personal history of cancer (this may be caused by both heredity and environmental factors)
  • Family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
  • Early onset of menstrual periods (before the age of 12)
  • No children or children born later in life
  • Use of (combined) hormone replacement therapy (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Alcohol use, especially excessive use
  • Overweight and lack of physical activity
In Your Genes
get screened for your breast cancer risk

 Have you had family members with breast cancer? Meet with a specialist to discuss your family history and calculate your genetic risks.

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What is Your Risk?
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Use an online assessment tool to gauge your breast cancer risk.

Use the Gail Model Tool
When You're High Risk
Talk to dedicated breast radiologists about being high risk

Catching cancer gives you better chances. Avoiding cancer altogether is even better. 

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What is Your Risk?

Jennifer Harvey, MD, discusses the various risks that may lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. View transcript.

Understanding the BRCA1 & BRCA2 Genes

The mutations that most often cause breast cancer are changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes ("Breast cancer 1 gene" and "Breast cancer 2 gene").

Women with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are three to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not have the mutations, and at an earlier age. There are also many other less common gene mutations that can cause breast cancer (for example, PTEN, p53, CDH, ATM, CHEK2 among others).

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the women who are mostly likely to have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations are those of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish heritage and/or those with family members who have had:

  • Multiple cases of breast cancer
  • Cases of both breast and ovarian cancer, or
  • One or more family members with two primary cancers (original tumors at different sites)

However, the NCI also notes that not every woman in such families carries an alteration in BRCA1 or BRCA2, and not every cancer in such families is linked to alterations in these genes.