What causes breast cancer? Am I at risk?
Who gets breast cancer?
More than 45,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year; the majority of cases are found in women over 50, though the disease can occur at any age. It is rare, but possible, for men to get breast cancer.
What are the causes of breast cancer?
With breast cancer, the causes or risk factors can be divided into two categories: definite risk factors and possible risk factors.
Am I at risk of breast cancer?
Your risk of getting breast cancer increases...
- as you get older
- if it runs in your family
- if you carry one of the breast cancer gene (BRCA1, BRCA, TP53 or PTEN, which can be tested for)
- if you’ve had certain non-cancerous breast diseases
- if you have DCIS or LCIS (early stage breast cancers)
- if you have higher levels of hormones in your blood after menopause
- if you started your period early and go through menopause late
- if you have children late in life, or never have children
- if you take hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- if you take the pill
- if you’ve had previous radiation treatments or exposure
- if you’re overweight
- if you drink a lot of alcohol
There are other a number of other factors that may constitute a small increase in risk, or which are currently being explored. They include a breast injury, a high fat diet, uneven breasts, diabetes, working the night shift or having taken the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent a miscarriage.