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Risk & Prevention

What are the risk factors for breast cancer?

There are many risk factors that contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. Some are risks we can increase or reduce depending on our lifestyle choices, but there are some risks, like being a woman and getting older, that we have no control over.

In a small percentage of cases, family history is also a risk factor – your risk of developing breast cancer increases if a close relative is diagnosed with breast cancer, the number of your relatives diagnosed with breast cancer, and if your relatives are diagnosed at a young age.

Even though there are many factors that could increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, it’s important to understand that your actual risk is fairly low. Assuming you are a woman and live to age 85, your risk of getting breast cancer over your lifetime is 1 in 8, or about 12.5 per cent.

While most of us can do little to change the general (unmodifiable) risk factors for developing breast cancer, researchers estimate that close to 30 per cent of all breast cancers could be prevented if women live healthier lives – and there are some very important ways you can help reduce your chance of getting the disease.