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Assessing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

There are many factors that can put women or men at risk for developing breast cancer. By understanding these risks and talking about them with your doctor, you can take steps to reduce your chances of developing breast cancer.

The specialists at the High Risk Breast Clinic at UPMC in central Pa. work with you to gather your family and medical history to help you understand what may influence your risk of breast cancer.

We consider the following factors when determining your risk:

  • Gender: If you are a woman you are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than a man. This is because women have more estrogen and progesterone, which are hormones that can promote breast cancer cell growth. However, it is important to remember that men can get breast cancer as well.
  • Age: The older you get, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. You are also at greater risk if you began menstruating younger than age 12 or your first pregnancy occurred after the age of 30. Race: Women who are white are at a slightly greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who are African American; however, more African American women are diagnosed with this disease under the age of 45. Hispanic, Asian and Native American women have the lowest risk of developing beast cancer and dying from it.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of breast cancer, your own risk may be elevated. If the family member who had cancer was directly related to you (for example, a parent or sibling), your risk might be higher than if the family member was a generation removed. Risk also increases if you have more than one relative who was diagnosed.
  • Genetics: Some women (and men) have a genetic mutation--a change in their genes--that places them at greater risk of breast cancer. These mutations can be inherited or can occur randomly. Genetic counseling can help determine if you are at an increased risk for genetic mutation and if genetic testing is recommended. Factors we consider when making a recommendation include (but are not limited to):
    • Whether you had breast cancer in the past
    • What age you were when you had cancer
    • What type of breast cancer you had
    • Whether you have relatives who had cancer, their age when they got cancer, how closely you were related and what type of cancer they had

Depending on your risk factors or the result of your screening, your doctor may recommend more rigorous screening or other interventions such as medications or surgery that may reduce your likelihood of developing breast cancer.

  • Lifestyle factors: Your lifestyle may include habits that increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Some of these lifestyle factors include:
    • Obesity
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Exercise
    • Smoking
  • Personal/medical history: Other factors that may impact your risk of breast cancer include:
    • When and if you had a baby
    • If you have ever had hormone therapy
    • When you first began menstruating (the earlier, the higher the risk)
    • How old you were when you entered menopause
    • Number of prior breast biopsies
    • Breast density
    • If, when and how long you breastfed
    • Whether or not you have had your ovaries removed

Male Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer in men is rare, but it does occur. The average age of a man diagnosed with breast cancer is 68. Risk factors can include:

  • A family history of breast cancer
  • Klinefelter syndrome
  • Testicular conditions such as mumps orchitis (a swelling of the testes cause by the mumps virus)
  • Estrogen treatment
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Radiation exposure
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Any man who has one or more of these risk factors should speak with his family doctor or a breast specialist.



UPMC Pinnacle Breast Care Center
Part of PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
11 Sprint Drive
Suite C
Carlisle, PA 17015

Phone: 717-960-3360
Fax: 717-706-6709

PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at the Rocco and Nancy Ortenzio Cancer Pavilion
2035 Technology Parkway
Suite 200
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Phone: 717-988-1450
Fax: 717-221-5544

PinnacleHealth Breast Care Center
Located at Medical Sciences Pavilion
4300 Londonderry Road
Suite 202
Harrisburg, PA 17109

Phone: 717-545-5000
Fax: 717-545-5002

Imaging Center at UPMC Lititz
Located at UPMC Lititz
1500 Highlands Drive
Lititz, PA 17543

Phone: 717-230-3700
Fax: 717-625-5519

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