Breast Cancer: Risks

Breast cancer is a disease that affects one in eight women during their lifetime. Like most cancers, breast cancer develops due to damaged DNA within the cells causing mutations. These mutated cells then develop into lumps known as tumours. When malignant tumours develop in the breast, it is diagnosed as breast cancer.

Being aware of the risks of breast cancer is important to an early diagnosis and timely treatment.

Breast Cancer Risks

Genetic Risks

  • Age: Women at the age of 40 or above are at an increased risk to breast cancer.
  • Family History and Genetic Factors: If an immediate family member or close relative has been diagnosed of breast cancer, the chances of developing breast cancer in the future are high.
  • Personal Health History: If breast cancer has been diagnosed in one breast, the chances of developing cancer in the other breast becomes high.
  • Menstrual and Reproductive History: The risk of breast cancer increases, if menstruation occurs at an early age (before 12 years), if menopause occurs late (after 55 years of age), having the first child at an older age, or never giving birth etc.

Environmental and Lifestyle Risks

  • Lack of Physical Activity: A lifestyle with low amounts of physical exercise can increase the risk to breast cancer.
  • Poor Diet: A diet deficient of vital vitamins and minerals and high in saturated fat increases the risk to breast cancer.
  • Being Overweight or Obese: Obesity also increases the risk of developing breast cancer, with the risks being higher if menopause has already occurred.
  • Drinking Alcohol: High alcohol consumption can also increase the risk to breast cancer.
  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): A combined hormone replacement therapy taken under prescription for menopause, increases the risk to breast cancer developing while also increasing the risk of cancer being detected at a more advanced stage.


While genetic risk factors cannot be avoided or actively treated, environmental risks can be greatly reduced. Following a healthy lifestyle with plenty of physical activity and a healthy diet are important steps to take to prevent breast cancer.

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