How Common Is Breast Cancer in Teens? Causes

Medically Reviewed on 3/15/2022
breast cancer in adolescents and younger
Breast cancer in teenagers is extremely rare, occurring only in about one teen out of a million.

Breast cancer in teenagers is extremely rare. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of female breast cancer in 15 to 19 years old individuals in the United States was 0.1 per 100,000 between 2012 and 2016. That is one teen out of a million.

Breast changes are a natural part of adolescence and should not be feared. You could be concerned that these alterations are linked to cancer, but this is a rare possibility.

Many changes occur in the breasts that are not cancerous. Most breast lumps in teenage girls are benign fibroadenomas. An overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast causes these.

Fibroadenomas are responsible for 91 percent of all solid breast lumps in girls younger than 19 years. You can normally move the lump around with your fingertips, and it feels hard and rubbery.

Cysts, which are noncancerous, fluid-filled sacs, are another less common breast lump in teenagers. A smooth and soft breast cyst is common. When you press on a cyst, it feels like you are pressing on a water balloon.

What causes breast cancer?

Although the exact causes of breast cancer are unknown, there are certain known risk factors, such as:

  • Genetic mutations cause changes in your genes (most notably BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations)
  • Breast cancer in the family (one may get breast cancer if their mother or grandmother had it; however, only 5 to 10 percent of people who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease)
  • Denser breasts (breasts with more connective tissues than fat can conceal malignancies)
  • Personal history of benign breast conditions or cancer
  • Radiation exposure in the past (young women who have received radiation therapy for a different ailment, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, are more vulnerable)
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • A sedentary life

Some risks, such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption, can be avoided, whereas others, such as advanced age and heredity, are beyond your control.

Overlapping breast cancer symptoms and puberty

When breasts begin to develop, they show as a bump beneath the nipple (called breast bud). This is a common occurrence during the development process.

As the fatty tissue and milk-producing glands inside the breasts continue to grow, the breasts become larger and rounder. You may experience tingling, aching, or itching in your chest as the breast buds expand, and your nipples may swell or become painful.

Changes in hormones may cause your breasts to feel painful, swollen, or sore a week or so before your period begins, which is normal.


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5 myths about breast cancer

On the internet, there is a lot of misinformation concerning breast cancer. Do not trust everything you read, especially if it is not from a reputable medical source.

  1. You have breast cancer if you see a lump in your breast: Breast lumps are found in many teenage girls and women, and only a small number of them turn out to be cancerous.
  2. Breast cancer can be caused by wearing a bra: No evidence suggests that wearing a bra causes breast cancer.
  3. Carrying a cell phone in your bra has been linked to the development of breast cancer: There is no evidence that cell phones are linked to breast cancer.
  4. Breast cancer spreads from one person to another: Breast cancer is not contagious and cannot be passed on from one person to another.
  5. Breast cancer is caused by antiperspirants and deodorants: There is no clear evidence associating the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants to the development of breast cancer according to researchers at the National Cancer Institute.

Breasts and contraception

According to several studies, using hormonal birth control (the pill) raises the risk of breast cancer by a small amount. When you quit using hormonal birth control, however, your risk levels revert to normal.

A study with about 150,000 women participants found that women who used oral contraceptives had a seven percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who never used oral contraceptives.

If you are on hormonal birth control and are concerned about your cancer risk, talk to your doctor about your choices before stopping.

What are breast cancer signs and symptoms?

A new lump is the most prevalent symptom of breast cancer. So, any new breast lump or alteration in the breasts should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare expert.

Other probable breast cancer symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the entire or a portion of the breast (even if no lump is felt)
  • Dimpling of the skin (sometimes looking like an orange peel)
  • Pain in the breasts or nipples
  • Retraction of the nipple (turning inward)
  • Red, dry, peeling, or thickened nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Lymph nodes swelling (sometimes, breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt)

Although any of these symptoms could be caused by something other than breast cancer, if you have them, you should see a doctor and find out what is causing them.

Medically Reviewed on 3/15/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Moffitt Cancer Center. Breast Cancer in Teens.

Chalasani P. Breast Cancer. Medscape.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Normal Breast Development and Changes.