Breast Cancer 101: Your Risk for Developing Breast Cancer


I’m starting a new series on the blog today called “Breast Cancer 101: Because You Need to Know.”   If you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer, come back each Thursday for a new lesson.

Lesson One:

Today we’re discussing your risk for developing breast cancer.  I was 33 years old with no family history of the disease when I was diagnosed.  Did I ever think I was at risk?  Never!  My suggestion?  Know your risks so you aren’t blindsided, like I was.

So, let’s talk established risks.  This means that scientists have 100% confirmed these things can cause breast cancer.

  • Being a woman:  While breast cancer does develop in men, 250,000 new cancer cases in American women will be reported this year.
  • Age:  2:3 women over 55 years and 1:8 women under 45 are likely to develop breast cancer.  It’s suggested that aging bodies are incapable of repairing cellular damage and that is one reason why cancers occur in older women.
  • Family history: If you have a sister, mother, or daughter diagnosed with the disease you have double the chance of developing the disease.  If you have both a mom and sister diagnosed, your risk is five times higher.
  • Genetics: Families with a history of the disease have been linked with the BRCA genes.  Though only 5% – 10% of breast cancers are hereditary.
  • Race: White women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic, and Asian women.  Though African American women are usually diagnosed with a more aggressive, more advanced stage of cancer.
  • Other risks include: radiation treatment to the face or chest, a diagnosis history of benign breast conditions, being overweight, having not had a full-term pregnancy, never having breastfed a baby, menstrual cycles starting before age 12, using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), drinking alcohol regularly, having dense breasts, smoking, and lack of regular exercise.

Now, the theories.  This list is based off of studies done but still remain only as possible causes.

  • Low levels of vitamin D:  Low levels have been associated with higher risk as the vitamin helps control the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Excessive light exposure during nighttime hours.
  • DES exposure (a drug given to women in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s to prevent miscarriage).
  • Diet: Studies suggest that 30%-40% of cancer is related to unhealthy eating habits.
  • Exposure to chemicals in food, make-up, lawn and garden products, plastic products (BPA), sunscreen, and grilled foods.

These are the risks.  Better yet, these are your risks.  Don’t convince yourself just because you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, that you will never develop the disease.

Your homework this week:  Find out how you can lower your risk of developing breast cancer by looking at any reputable breast cancer website, including, and the Dr. Susan Love Breast Cancer Foundation.

Next week, we’ll talk more about the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene.  How can you find out if you’re a carrier and what does it mean if you are.

I encourage you to leave me a question about anything we discussed today or about any other breast cancer questions you might have!

This information should not be used to substitute any professional medical advice.  If you have questions or concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to visit your physician.  Works cited:, March 20, 2012.


  1. This is awesome, Wendy! I look forward to reading more in the series.

  2. Thanks, Wendy. We (I?) need these reminders all the time as I am “high risk”…

  3. Having family history now, I realize that I REALLY need to start paying more attention. Thanks for this and I’ll be sharing with ALL of my girlfriends!

  4. Arwen Peszynski says:

    Thank you for your article. Reminders are a great source of prevention and taking care of your health.

  5. So, so important. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is excellent info Wendy, looking forward to the rest of your series this month.

  7. Thanks for sharing this great information Wendy. I’m sharing it with women I know.

  8. Wowza! Those are some scary stats. I just turned 30 and I’m more concerned about my health. Not because anything is wrong but because I know that it’s not going to be easy riding. My cousin is 42 and she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. There’s no history of anything in our family. Literally. We have cataracts and glaucoma and that’s about it. My grandfather was almost 96 when he died and his sister was 97 or 98. I will look forward to the rest of your series.

    • Yep, breast cancer is no joke. And it certainly isn’t our grandmother’s disease anymore. The number of women under 40 being diagnosed is staggering. Many thanks for stopping by Brianna!

  9. Great idea! I found your blog a few weeks ago through AOW. Which I proudly signed up for. I am going to be a part of the young women with breast cancer study and look forward to participating and hopefully making a difference.

    It’s so important to get the word out to younger women with risk information like this. I know that we are all pretty AWARE that breast cancer exisits… but not so much aware about the fact that it can happen to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s too. It blindsided me at 28.

  10. Such great information. My mom passed away at age 56 from breast cancer and I’m always interested in the research and theories.
    Thanks for posting.

    • I’m always interested in research and theories too so I’m happy to share with friends!
      Thanks Debbie for stopping by!!

  11. Wow. Just wow.

  12. Great info, Wendy! I love that you’re doing this series and reminding ladies of what they need to know. Every little bit of awareness helps. If we can help save lives through blogs then the internet is worth its weight in gold!

  13. You are such an awesome warrior! Thank you for this.
    Made my appts yesterday.
    thank you!

  14. As much as I’ve been involved with breast cancer in the past 2 years, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the risks – and to continue to spread the word about awareness. Thank you for this!

  15. I admire you so much for sharing all this, Wendy. Are you cancer-free now, I hope? It worries me that my D has been low, I probably use chemicals in my makeup, SPF, etc & you know I love alcohol! =P Knowledge is power, though & I am glad to know more now because of you!


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