Dr. Drai Breaks Down Your Risks For Breast Cancer

Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Yeah… SuzyKnew! is late with this one. Not only that – a dubious milestone was achieved: the incidence of breast cancer among black women became equal to that of white women, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. Previously, breast cancer occurred at a lower rate among Black women. For more on breast cancer and black women see The Sisters Network, Inc.

Below Dr. Drai breaks down the risk factors for breast cancer. Straight – no chaser.


Breast cancer affects more American women than any other cancer, except skin cancer. It’s also the deadliest cancer for women after lung cancer. Let’s review your risk.


Age 40 or older – The risk for breast cancer increases as a woman ages. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50; the risk is especially high for women over 55.

Family history – The risk of getting breast cancer increases for a woman whose mother, sister or daughter has had the disease. The risk increases if the relative’s cancer developed before menopause or if it affected both breasts.

About 5-10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary due to genetic mutations in the BRCA 1 or 2 genes. There is a blood test available to see if you have this genetic difference. Women who have inherited one of these mutations are at risk for developing other cancers, especially ovarian cancer. There are other gene mutations that can lead to inherited breast cancers, but are much rarer.

Personal history – Women who have had breast cancer are at high risk for developing the disease again. There are also benign breast (glandular or ductal) conditions that increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Race and ethnicity – African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer. African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed under the age of 45.

Never given birth, or birth after 30 – Estrogen levels in the breasts of these women are higher than in women who have had children, making their risk for breast cancer slightly higher. This is because estrogen increases the rate of cell division, which increases the risk of cancer developing. Higher estrogen leads to dense breasts (less fatty tissue in breasts) as well, which can make mammograms less accurate.

Long menstrual history – Women who began menstruating at an early age (before 12) and/or having a late menopause (after 55) are slightly more at risk for breast cancer, because of the level of estrogen in their bodies. Breastfeeding and loss of menstrual cycles may have a protective effect. The use of oral contraceptives and Depo-Provera also have a slightly greater risk while using the medications, but which reverses once discontinued.

Exposures – (1) Previous Chest radiation – women who had radiation therapy to the chest for other reasons as a child or young adult are at increased risk for breast cancer. (2) Women exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the 1940’s to 1960’s have a slightly higher risk, as do their daughters. (3) Use of combined hormone therapy (conjugated estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate) is associated with a higher risk compared to estrogen alone. (4) Women who have more than one alcoholic drink a day on a regular basis are at higher risk. (5) Smoking tobacco increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

One more thing…Breast cancer affects #GENTS too, but it’s 100 times more common among women. #GYNEGirls- know your risk AND talk to your DOC. Until next time…