11 risk factors for breast cancer

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There are some conditions, such as family history, early menstruation and obesity that can favor the development of the disease.

Breast cancer does not have a single cause. This means that this malignant tumor can arise for a variety of reasons, from organic causes such as age, early menstruation and late menopause, to behavioral factors such as obesity, alcohol intake and high cholesterol.

If a person has more than one of these risk conditions, the chances of developing the disease increase – including when it comes to male breast cancer. The following are the main risk factors for breast cancer:

  1. Family history;

  2. Age;

  3. Previous breast tumor;

  4. early menstruation;

  5. late menopause;

  6. Hormone replacement;

  7. Hormonal contraceptive methods;

  8. Alcoholism;

  9. High cholesterol;

  10. Obesity;

  11. Absence of pregnancy;

Family history

According to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary. This factor is more common in young patients (which are rare), and is usually related to genetic mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Genetic predisposition applies to a family history of both breast and ovarian cancer – and is also a risk factor for male breast cancer.


Age is one of the main risk factors for breast cancer. This is because, as the INCA indicates, the risk of developing the tumor increases with advancing age, being more common after 50 years of age.

It is the natural biological changes of aging and the accumulation of exposure to certain substances throughout life (such as hormones, drugs and pesticides) that make age a risk factor for the disease.

previous breast tumor

Those who have already had breast cancer are more likely to develop the disease again, especially if the treatment indications after the tumor has remitted are not followed correctly. In this context, it is called recurrent cancer.

early menstruation

The disease is closely related to estrogen stimulation. “The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of breast cancer”, explains Heliégina Palmieris, mastologist at the São Camilo SP Hospital Network.

When a person experiences their first period under age 12, known as menarche or early menstruation, they are exposed to estrogen longer, increasing their chances of developing breast cancer in the future.

late menopause

In this case, estrogen is also the villain. Menopause is considered late when it occurs after age 55. With this, even at lower levels, the person continues to produce estrogen while they are in the age group at risk for the disease.

hormone replacement

Hormone replacement therapy usually takes place after menopause. It is made with estrogen and progestin, a non-bioidentical derivative of progesterone.

One study from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) noted that this combination greatly increases your chances of developing breast cancer — and your risk of dying from the disease as well.

Hormonal contraceptive methods

As with estrogen hormone replacement, contraceptive methods that use this hormone, such as birth control, injection, and the hormonal IUD, can also increase your risk of breast cancer.

However, if the contraceptive use is stopped, the chances of developing the disease return to normal proportions, especially if the contraceptive method has not been used for more than 10 years.


Alcohol consumption is directly associated with the emergence of different types of cancer, including breast cancer. One search published in JAMA noted that even intake at lower levels, equivalent to three to six servings per week, is enough to be considered a risk factor for the disease.

It is worth mentioning that the amount of alcohol consumed influences more than the frequency of consumption.

High cholesterol

This risk factor is also related to estrogen. That’s because cholesterol fat is naturally used by the body to produce the hormone. When cholesterol is high, the level of estrogen also increases, as does the risk of developing breast cancer.


“Obesity can increase the incidence of breast cancer through the production of estrogen by the fat tissue, due to the chronic inflammatory process installed inside the fat”, explains Heliégina Palmieris.

When they are under estrogenic action, breast tissues are more exposed to stimuli that cause irregular cell multiplication (the tumor). The inflammatory state of fat, in turn, contributes to the proliferation and progression of cancer cells.

Absence of pregnancy or late pregnancy

Having your first pregnancy after age 30 is also considered a risk factor for breast cancer. According to NGO Oncoguiathe chances of having the disease are higher in the first decade after the birth of the child, especially if it is hormone receptor negative or triple negative.

Content for educational purposes only. Consult a Doctor.

The translator user relied on the following source:

Minha Vida Website – REF99827

Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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