How to Weigh Your Breast Cancer Risk Factors


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Having breast cancer in your genes is just part of the equation.
(PHOTODISC/GETTY/VEER)
Not all breast cancer risks factors have the same influence.

• "A family history will still drive [risk] much more powerfully than other reproductive risk factors—like having no children, having few children, or having children late," says Angela R. Bradbury, MD, director of the Margaret Dyson Family Risk Assessment Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

• Having a first-degree relative such as a mother, sister, or daughter with a breast cancer history boosts your risk much more than if a cousin or more distant relative has had it—particularly if the diagnosis came before the age of 50 or your familys background is Ashkenazi Jewish.

• Then there are the so-called breast cancer genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Mutations in these genes raise your risk even higher than the family connection alone. If you have relatives with breast cancer, you might be a candidate for BRCA testing or for other modifications to your screening for the disease. Make an appointment to talk through your options with your doctor or a genetic counselor.

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Last Updated: April 25, 2008

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