Estimating Breast Cancer Risk - Personal Risks

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After using the tool, what is your breast cancer risk? Will it change your lifestyle or frequency of health exams?

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3. What are the risk factors used to estimate breast cancer risk in the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool?

The risk factors included in the tool are:

  • Personal history of breast abnormalities. Two breast tissue abnormalities -- ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) -- are associated with increased risk for developing invasive breast cancer.

  • Age. The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. The majority of breast cancer cases occur in women older than age 50.

  • Age at menarche (first menstrual period). Women who had their first menstrual period before age 12 have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

  • Age at first live birth. Risk depends on age at first live birth and family history of breast cancer, as shown in the following table of relative risks.
Relative Risk of Developing Breast Cancer*
Age at first live birth 0 Affected Relatives 1 Affected Relatives 2 Affected Relatives
20 or younger 1 2.6 6.8
20-24 1.2 2.7 5.8
25-29 or no child 1.5 2.8 4.9
30 or older 1.9 2.8 4.2

For women with 0 or 1 affected relative, risks increase with age at first live birth. For women with 2 or more first degree relatives, risks decrease with age at first live birth.

Adapted from Table 1, Gail MH, Brinton LA, Byar DP, Corle DK, Green SB, Shairer C, Mulvihill JJ: Projecting individualized probabilities of developing breast cancer for white females who are being examined annually. J Natl Cancer Inst 81(24):1879-86, 1989. [PubMed Abstract]

  • Breast cancer among first-degree relatives (sisters, mother, daughters). Having one or more first-degree blood relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer increases a woman's chances of developing the disease.

  • Breast biopsies. Women who have had breast biopsies have an increased risk of breast cancer, especially if the biopsy showed a change in breast tissue, known as atypical hyperplasia. These women are at increased risk because of whatever prompted the biopsies, not because of the biopsies themselves.

  • Race. White women have greater risk of developing breast cancer than Black women (although Black women diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die of the disease).
Return to Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers

See what others are saying

Comment from: Suha, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 24

I am the oldest of 4 girls in my family. Mother had breast cancer. One of my siblings also had breast cancer. Mother is deceased. Father deceased due to lung cancer/diabetes and his only sibling had leukemia. I had my second mammogram yesterday. I am of age 62 with severe COPD.

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