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Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 06/02/2014

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Who Is at Risk?

Besides female sex, advancing age is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer. Reproductive factors that increase exposure to endogenous estrogen, such as early menarche and late menopause, increase risk, as does the use of combination estrogen-progesterone hormones after menopause. Nulliparity and alcohol consumption also are associated with increased risk.

Increased breast density is associated with increased risk. It is often a heritable trait but is also seen more frequently in nulliparous women, women whose first pregnancy occurs late in life, and women who use postmenopausal hormones and alcohol.

Exposure to ionizing radiation, especially during puberty or young adulthood, and the inheritance of detrimental genetic mutations increase breast cancer risk.