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Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Understanding and Managing Your Risks of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2022, it is estimated that 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S., while 2,710 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men.

The good news? There are more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. alone — thanks to regular testing and early treatment. In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, learn more about your risks of developing this condition and how early diagnosis is vital.

Am I at High Risk for Breast Cancer?

While there are several risk factors for breast cancer and some risk factors such as biological sex and age cannot be changed, lifestyle-related risk factors can be changed. The most common risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Biological sex (being born female)
  • Age
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Genetic mutations (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2)
  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Taking certain hormone replacement therapies during menopause
  • Starting menstruation at a young age
  • Having children later in life or not at all
  • Never having breastfed a child  
  • Exposure to radiation and pollutants

Dense Breast Tissue and Breast Cancer

Additionally, certain breast cancer risk factors are related to breast density. The term breast density refers to the amount of glandular, connective and fatty tissue in the breast.  Dense breasts have a higher proportion of glandular and fibrous connective tissue than fatty tissue. Dense breast tissue appears white on a mammogram, while fatty tissue appears dark. Approximately 40-50 percent of women have dense breast tissue—which increases their risks of developing breast cancer compared to women with primarily fatty breast tissue.

Breast Cancer Screenings

While self-exams and a healthy lifestyle are essential for breast cancer prevention, mammograms are the best method for detecting breast cancer early when it is most treatable.  According to, all women should have a mammogram every year beginning at age 40, and women aged 55 and older should have one bi-annually. Women with certain risk factors (e.g., family history of breast cancer or dense breast tissue) may need to start mammograms earlier or have more frequent mammograms.

If you are concerned about your breast cancer risk, talk to your health care provider.  They can help you understand your risk factors and make recommendations for breast cancer screening and prevention.

Health Screenings for Women of All Ages

Helping our patients lead healthy lives is important to us at Southwest General Medical Group, Inc. That’s why we encourage annual well-woman screenings for early detection of health issues and overall better health. Please visit our website today to learn more and schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers.