Last updated: Jul 23, 2008
1. Aside from being a woman, which of the following most increases your risk of getting breast cancer?


Age

Approximately 70% of women who get breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors. But aside from being a woman, age is the No. 1 factor: Your risk goes up as you get older, rising to 1 in 8 by the time youre 85. And 5% to 10% of breast cancers can be traced to family history. Smoking poses a variety of health risks to everyone, but studies have not shown a conclusive link between smoking and increased risk of breast cancer. Likewise, although research shows that being overweight or obese (especially if you're past menopause) increases your risk of breast cancer, studies have not conclusively shown a link between consumption of a high-fat diet and an increased risk of breast cancer.

Here are five simple things you can do to cut your breast cancer risk.


2. True or false: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) are more likely to get breast cancer.

False

In the past, women with lumpy, dense, or fibrocystic breasts were believed to have a higher risk of cancer, but there doesnt appear to be any connection after all. Sometimes the condition can make breast cancer harder to find, however, and may merit following up a mammogram with an ultrasound.


3. A woman with a breast lump who undergoes a biopsy has a:

20% chance that its cancerous

Heres more information about breast biopsies.


4. What is the average womans chance of getting breast cancer?

Your risk increases as you get older

A womans risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer starts at about 1 in 233 before age 40 and rises to 1 in 8 by the time shes 85.

Heres more information about causes of breast cancer.


5. Catching certain kinds of breast cancer before they spread to lymph nodes puts a woman's five-year relative survival rate at:

More than 95%

Heres more information about mammograms and other methods for catching breast cancer early.


6. True or false: You can reduce your breast cancer risk by limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, exercising, and losing weight if youre obese.

True

High consumption of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer; experts recommend limiting yourself to a few alcoholic drinks a week. There is also growing evidence that physical activity reduces breast cancer risk; shoot for exercising at least three times a week (more often is better), and when you do exercise, work to keep your heart rate above its baseline level for a minimum of 20 continuous minutes. Research also shows that being overweight or obese (especially if you're past menopause) increases your risk for breast cancer, in particular if you put on the weight as an adult.


7. True or false: There are times when chemotherapy may not be required as part of a treatment regimen for breast cancer.

True

Indeed, there may be cases of early-stage breast cancer where either no therapy is necessary or where radiation and hormone therapy may be indicated without the need for chemotherapy.

Heres more information about chemotherapy and other breast cancer treatments.


8. Women with "triple negative" breast cancer:

Have tumors with three characteristics that make them untreatable with certain therapies

Triple-negative tumor cells test negative for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2). This puts Herceptin and hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, out of reach as treatment options. Some combination of genetics and environmental factors are believed to contribute to triple-negative disease. African American women are roughly twice as likely as white women to have this form of the disease.

This video explains the limited treatment options available for triple-negative cancers. Read one woman's struggle with triple-negative disease.


9. True or false: If you don't have breast cancer, having both breasts removed completely eliminates your risk.

False

After prophylactic mastectomy, a woman's overall risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of about 90%.


10. Which health problem carries a higher lifetime risk for women than breast cancer?

All of the above (heart disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease)

Women have only about a 13% lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, while that lifetime risk is 39% for heart disease, 50% for osteoporosis, and 17% for Alzheimer's disease. It's also worth noting that while it's absolutely necessary to take breast cancer seriously, the disease accounts for fewer deaths each year in American women than heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease.

Want to learn more? Read the top 25 breast cancer myths and misunderstandings.