There are four main predictors of how likely it is for you to contract breast cancer.

  • AGE: It's pretty rare for women younger than 35 to have breast cancer. The risk for the disease increases exponentially by age. Most breast cancers occur in women older 50 and especially in women older than 60.

  • FAMILY HISTORY: If your mother, sister, or daughter has developed breast cancer before menopause, you are three times more likely to develop the disease. If two or more close relatives (e.g., cousins, aunts, grandmothers) have/had breast cancer, you are at increased risk as well. Recently, scientists have found that mutations in genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase one's susceptibility to breast cancer. A simple blood test can tell you if you have such a condition.

  • PERSONAL HISTORY: If you've had breast cancer, you have an increased risk of getting it again. Also, if you've had benign breast disease (e.g., fibrocystic breast disease), you are at an increased risk. Higher estrogen levels are strongly linked with susceptibility to breast cancer as well.

  • LIFESTYLE: There have been several studies that found a lower incidence of breast cancer among women who exercise regularly and a higher proportion of breast cancer among obese women. There is also evidence that there is increased risk of breast cancer with increased alcohol use (i.e., 3 or more drinks per week); perhaps due to the fact that alcohol increases blood estrogen levels.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW perform a breast self-examination?