What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is any situation that predisposed an individual to the chance of developing a disease. The following risk factors have been associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer.
- Age – Most symptoms of breast disease appear in women over age 35, with women over age 50 being at greatest risk for developing breast cancer. There is also evidence to suggest that the age factor may be related to menopause.
- Previous Breast Cancer – The risk of contracting a second breast cancer is greater for women who have a personal history of breast cancer.
- Family History – A woman with a mother or sister who has had breast cancer has a two to four times greater-than-average risk of developing it. She is more than likely to get cancer at an earlier age, and the disease may be in both breasts. The risk increases if the family occurrence was premenopausal, found in both breasts or occurred in many generations.
- Reproductive – Women who have not had children, or those who have their first child after age 30, are usually considered at higher risk for breast cancer. On the other hand, it is thought that having a first child at an early age may have a protective effect against the disease.
- Hormonal – Early onset of the menstrual period and late menopause are associated with increased risk. Recent information has shown that there may be a slight increase in risk in women who use Hormone Replacement Therapy over 10 years.
Remember, although risk factors are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer, this does not necessarily mean a women will develop breast cancer. At the same time, 70 to 80 percent of women with breast cancer have no risk factors at all. The number one risk for developing breast cancer is being female.