How a Woman's Health History Affects Breast Cancer Risk
Certain pieces of a woman's health history can make her risk of developing breast cancer higher. For most women, these are not factors that can be changed, but many women want to know about risks that may exist. Some of the risks include:
- The risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older. Most cases are diagnosed after the age of 50.
- Women who have their first menstrual period before age 12 and start menopause after the age of 55. This is thought to be because they will have a longer lifetime exposure to hormones in their bodies.
- Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase the risk of breast cancer.
- Having a first-degree relative or multiple family members on one side of your family with breast cancer increases your risk.
- Radiation to the chest before age 30.
- DES (diethylstilbestrol) was a medication used between 1940-1971 to prevent miscarriage. Both women who took the medication and the daughters of the women who took the medication are at higher risk of breast cancer.
It is important to remember that just because you have a risk factor for breast cancer does not mean that you will get breast cancer.
Researchers have created a program, called the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. This tool takes all of these factors into consideration and calculates an estimated risk of developing breast cancer in the next 5 years and in the woman's lifetime. These calculations are based on the Gail Model, a statistical model for determining risk. Learn more about the Model or use the tool.
Talk with your provider about your health history or if you have questions about your breast cancer risk.