Breast Cancer Risk Factors, Screening and Prevention

Each year, over 180,000 females in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. Of women living to the age of 90, one in nine will be treated for breast cancer at some point in their lives. These statistics underscore the reality that all women are at risk for developing breast cancer.

Despite these data, it is still important to distinguish certain populations of women who are at higher-than-normal risk for the disease. Defining these populations allows for appropriate screening recommendations to be made.


It also helps to determine which patients should be counseled regarding preventive agents. This chapter will serve as a brief outline of risk factors for breast cancer development, the appropriate screening of various populations and the currently available preventive modalities.

Risk factors for breast cancer

  1. Female gender
  2. Age over 50
  3. Caucasian race
  4. North American or Northern European descent
  5. Personal history of breast cancer or atypical hyperplasia
  6. Having two or more first-degree relatives who’ve had the disease
  7. Having a first-degree relative who has had bilateral premenopausal breast cancer
  8. Early menarche
  9. Natural menopause after age 55
  10. Having one or more breast cancer genes, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2
  11. Alcohol consumption (more than one drink daily)
  12. Obesity
  13. Current or recent use of hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogen-progestin combinations

Alexandra S. Heerdt
Breast cancer detection demonstration project: five-year summary report. CA 2003

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