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More About Breast Health... Breast Health Home Anatomy of the Breast Normal Breast Development Statistics Risk Factors Genetics of Breast Cancer Screening Signs and Symptoms Glossary
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Thomas Jefferson University Hospital will serve an integral role with the highly successful “Eagles Tackling Breast Cancer Campaign”

Directions and Parking

For more information
or to schedule an appointment,
call 1-800-JEFF-NOW.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, or it may be aspects of the person’s background, such as family history. Different diseases, including cancers, have different risk factors.

Some people with one or more risk factors never develop cancer, while others develop cancer and have no known risk factors. However, learning about your risk factors to any disease and understanding your individual risk for developing a disease can help to guide you to the appropriate actions that may decrease your chances of developing that disease, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

Any woman may develop breast cancer; however, the following risk factors may increase the likelihood of the disease. Risk factors for breast cancer include both those that cannot be changed such as genetics and age, and those that can be changed such as lifestyle.

Risk factors for breast cancer:

Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than in men.

Approximately 77 percent of breast cancers diagnosed are in women 60 years of age or greater.

personal history of breast cancer
Women with a personal history of breast cancer are at high risk for a recurrence or a new breast cancer.

previous breast radiation
Women, who had radiation to their chest wall for therapy or treatment of a disease (for example, Hodgkin’s disease) before the age of 30, are at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

family history and genetic factors
Up to 20 percent of all cases of cancer have a familial component and 5-10 percent of all cancer may be due to an inherited risk. Women who have a first-degree relative with breast cancer (parents, siblings, or offspring-children) have an increased risk for developing breast cancer.

Women with a family member or a personal history of a known gene mutation, BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, also have an increase risk for developing breast cancer.

Genetic factors are an important part of evaluation for your individual risk, especially for women with family history of the disease. Jefferson’s Hereditary Cancer Program is dedicated to identifying individuals of a known or suspected inherited predisposition to cancer, and helping these patients to manage their risk.

ductal hyperplasia (ADH) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
Pathology findings of these noncancerous abnormalities – ductal hyperplasia (ADH) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) – increase a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

and hormonal influences

-- Menstrual periods that began early in life (before 12 years of age).
-- Menopause later in life (after 55 years of age).
-- Delivery of first child after the age of 30, or never having children.
The most frequently cited lifestyle-related risk factors are:

post-menopausal weight gain or obesity and a high-fat diet;
physical inactivity;
and alcohol use.
Every woman is considered at risk for developing breast by virtue of being a woman and because of aging. These two facts put a woman at average risk for developing breast cancer. Some women have risk factors that increase their risk for developing breast cancer. Understanding your individual risk, lets you follow the screening and risk-reducing measures that are appropriate for you.

Jefferson’s Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program will help you estimate your overall risk for developing breast cancer, and can assist you in taking steps to reduce your risk, including screening, medications, and lifestyle changes, as well as referrals to clinical trials for women at increase risk for developing breast cancer.

All women benefit from having a breast cancer risk assessment to assist in their effort to reduce their risk, and to detect cancer as early as possible.

Hormone replacement therapy update:

To learn more about women's health, and specifically hormone replacement therapy, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) in 1991. This trial focused on hormone therapies and had two arms: the estrogen-plus-progestin (HRT) study of women with a uterus and the estrogen-alone (ERT) study of women without a uterus. Both studies were concluded early when the research showed that hormone replacement did not help prevent heart disease and it increased risk for some medical problems.

The WHI recommends that women follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advice on hormone (estrogen-alone or estrogen-plus-progestin) therapy. It states that hormone therapy should not be taken to prevent heart disease.

These products are approved therapies for relief from moderate to severe hot flashes and symptoms of vulvar and girl thingyl atrophy. Although hormone therapy is effective for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis, it should only be considered for women at significant risk of osteoporosis who cannot take non-estrogen medications.

Studies have shown that women over 65 have a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer if they have taken a combination of estrogen and progestin for more five years. (This is not the case for women those who have taken estrogen-only HRT.) The FDA recommends that hormone therapy be used at the lowest doses for the shortest duration needed to achieve treatment goals.

Postmenopausal women who use or are considering using hormone therapy should discuss the possible benefits and risks with their physicians.

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