Risk factors

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. 1 in 8 women in the UK develops breast cancer during their lifetime. Anything that increases the risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor.

Having one or more of the following risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely get cancer. Many people who have them never get it and some people with no risk factors develop it.

Risk factors can be divided into two main groups:

Risk factors that we cannot change or reverse:

  • Getting older (>45 years)
  • Early menarche
  • Late menopause
  • Previous primary breast cancer
  • Certain benign breast conditions
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation carriers
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Previous radiotherapy to the chest

Risk factors that we change or reverse:

  • The use of oestrogen-progesterone oral contraceptives.
  • Obesity in post-menopausal women.
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

One way to reduce your risk of Breast cancer is doing regular physical activities. 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate to high-intensity physical exercise is associated with reduced risk of Breast cancer. Other ways include staying at a healthy weight, reduce alcohol consumption and avoiding hormone replacement therapy. Breastfeeding may offer protection against Breast cancer.