Estimating Breast Cancer Risk - Personal Risks

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 # of affected relatives
    0 1 2
    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).
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