New research by the University of Calgary in Canada has revealed alarming global trends in breast cancer. Findings from data on women in 41 countries showed a significant rise in breast cancer in premenopausal women in high-income countries such as Canada. However, the study showed breast cancer in postmenopausal women in low-income countries also continues to increase.

Given this new trend, the onus lies on every woman to know the risk factors they face regarding this type of cancer.

So what are these risk factors? Which ones can you control to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer?



Age is a crucial risk factor as far as breast cancer is concerned. Most women are diagnosed with this kind of cancer at the age of 50 or older. It is worth noting that this statistic is changing as women in their 30s and 40s are also being diagnosed.


According to the CDC, approximately 5 to 10% of breast cancers run in the family. This type of cancer is also known as hereditary cancer. It is caused by changes in genes that are passed down to an individual by one of their parents. Basically, two types of genes help us fight cancer, which are BRCA1 and BRCA2, the BRCA genes. These are tumour suppressor genes. Without any changes or mutations, these genes function well; they usually help to keep certain cancers like breast and ovarian cancers at bay. They do this by preventing body cells in these organs from growing and dividing at a faster rate. However, when there are mutations or changes in these genes, they increase your risk for cancer. Thus women who have had these genetic mutations passed down to them through their bloodline are at a high risk for breast cancer.

Reproductive history

Women who start menstruation early (before the age of 12) and those who have their menopause later than 52 years are also very susceptible to having breast cancer. This is because they are exposed to hormones much longer than the average woman.

Types of breasts

The kind of breasts you have also makes you prone to getting breast cancer. Apparently, women with dense breasts are at a higher risk than their counterparts who do not possess this type of breasts. Dense breasts have more connective tissue than fatty tissue making it difficult to detect tumours during a mammogram.

History of breast cancer or other non-cancerous breast diseases

Women who have had breast cancer before can have it again. More so, women who have been diagnosed with certain kinds of breast disease, although these were non-cancerous, are also at risk. An example of this is atypical hyperplasia.

Family history of breast cancer

A woman is also at high risk if she has close relations or first-degree relatives such as a mother, sister or daughter who has had the disease. Or if she has multiple relatives on both sides of the family tree who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. A woman is even at high risk if a first-degree male relative has had breast cancer.

Previous exposure to radiation

The treatment of certain diseases requires the use of radiation therapy or radiotherapy. Women who have received this kind of treatment around the chest or breasts before age 30 stand a greater chance of getting breast cancer.

Certain medications

Being on certain medications also raises the risk of breast cancer. For instance, between 1940 and 1971, women in the United States who were given the drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarrying were put at a much greater risk of breast cancer. Even women whose mothers were on this medication while pregnant with them were also at risk.


Physical inactivity

Being a couch potato or having a sedentary lifestyle increases a woman's risk not only for cardiovascular diseases but certain cancers like breast cancer. The CDC advises that one engages in some form of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, which is generally very safe.


Obese or overweight women are among the high-risk group for breast cancer. This is so if they are obese after menopause.

Taking hormones

Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) is used to treat menopausal symptoms and protect long-term health. This is usually done by administering hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. However, clinical trials have shown some health risks associated with their long-term use – breast cancer is one of these health risks. Transgender women over the age of 50 who have undergone HRT for 5 to 10 years are usually at risk with regard to this risk factor.

Reproductive history

Getting pregnant for the first time after the age of 30, not breastfeeding and not having a full-term pregnancy can all increase breast cancer risk.

Taking alcohol

Taking to the bottle is one surefire way of increasing your risk for breast cancer.


Female smokers increase their risk of breast cancer with every cigarette stick they lit.

Exposure to chemicals

Long term or overexposure to certain chemicals can also make you prone to getting breast cancer.

Working the night shift

Working on a night shift for long also increases breast cancer risk for a woman. Such women usually experience a change in certain hormones that can make them susceptible to getting this condition.

Although the majority of the risk factors stated here are uncontrollable, it appears a fair number of them can be controlled. Speak to your physician about which risk factors to keep tabs on to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

Disclaimer: The information shared by this post is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be professional medical advice nor a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician concerning anything you have read here.


By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team

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