Knowing the risk factors for breast cancer is the first step to understanding the disease

Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in Indian women. Dr. Wahida Suresh, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Apollo clinic Kotturpuram, Chennai explains that 1 in every 28 women in India can develop breast cancer at any stage of her life. The latest report from WHO implied that about 76000 women in India die because of this condition every year. The number can be even worse if we are not aware of the risks of breast cancer, its early diagnosis, and proper treatment. This article discusses the risks of breast cancer. Anyone carrying any such risk must be encouraged to have regular breast exams and yearly mammography.


Age is the most significant factor that influences the risk for breast cancer. The older you are, the higher the risk. Most of the breast cancer cases can be seen in women over 50 years of age.

Family history:

Having a significant family history (having a blood relative like a parent or a sibling with breast cancer) may increase the risk for breast cancer.

Genetic mutations:

Women who have inherited mutations in genes (changes in the structure of genes) like BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are at higher risk of breast cancer. Genetic mutations can be determined through genetic testing. Women who have significant family history of ovarian and breast cancer are recommended to get genetic testing so that early detection can be made.


Obesity, especially after menopause, is linked to breast cancer. Excess amounts of fat in the body contribute to a high estrogen level which is a contributing factor for breast cancer development.

Dense breast tissue:

Having high breast density is inherited and carries the risk of cancerous tumors. Women with dense breast contain less fat tissue and more fibrous and glandular tissue which increase the risk of breast cancer. High-density breasts also play a role in delayed diagnosis as their tumors are not easily visible on a mammogram.

Menstrual and reproductive history:

Women who got their periods before the age of 12 or who got their menopause later than the average age of 52 years has a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who had delayed pregnancy and never had a pregnancy may also have a risk for breast cancer.

Previous treatments:

A woman previously treated with Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), birth control pills for longer periods, Diethylstilbestrol (DES), or chest radiation therapy for other cancers have significantly increased the risk for breast cancer.

Research suggests that the breast cancer risk also increases with smoking, alcohol consumption, not being physically active and poor diet.

Having one or more symptoms is not always a cancer sign. It is important to get diagnosed with the doctor.

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