Evaluating Breast Cancer Risk

Last Modified: March 22, 2012


How do I know if I am at risk for breast cancer?


Charles B. Simone, II, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine responds:

Breast cancer is the most common solid cancer in women. Approximately 1 in 8 women will developed breast cancer during their lifetime. Other than female gender, the most common risk factor for developing breast cancer is older age. Have a family history also increases the risk, especially if you have two or more first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) with breast cancer. Other breast conditions, like atypical ductal hyperplasia and breast carcinoma in situ, can also increase the risk. Have menarche (first menstrual period) before age 12 years or menopause after 50 years can increase the risk. Preventable factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include heavy alcohol use, obesity, and potentially also a high fat diet. Prior radiation therapy to the breast, like to treat another cancer like Hodgkin's lymphoma, increases the risk of developing a breast cancer, particularly if the radiation therapy was developed before age 30 years. Some factors decrease the risk of breast cancer, including having a child at a young age, especially before 20 years old, and breast-feeding.

The NIH has a breast cancer risk evaluation tool that you can access online: http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.