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The Methodist Breast Center can help patients evaluate options and ways to have a positive effect on their chances of developing breast cancer. While it's difficult to accurately predict any individual's risk of developing breast cancer, our growing understanding of the ways in which breast cancer develops has helped doctors and scientists define categories of risk factors and protective factors for breast cancer.
It's important to remember that even with everything we know about breast cancer, there are still many unknowns. Every person is different, and what's appropriate for one person may not be for another.
Risk factors and protective factors
(source: National Cancer Institute)
The following risk factors may increase the risk of breast cancer:
- Estrogen (naturally occurring)
- Hormone replacement therapy/hormone therapy
- Exposure to radiation
- Inherited risk (genetic factors)
The following protective factors may decrease the risk of breast cancer:
- Decreased exposure to estrogen
- Medications to reduce estrogen receptivity (for example, Tamoxifen)
- Medications to inhibit estrogen production (Aromatase inhibitors)
- Prophylactic mastectomy (the removal of both breasts when there is no sign of cancer)
- Prophylactic oophorectomy (the removal of both ovaries when there is no sign of cancer)
The following have not been proven to be risk factors for breast cancer, or their effects on breast cancer risk are not known:
- Oral contraceptives
- Active and passive cigarette smoking
- Use of statins (certain cholesterol-lowering drugs)
Take a proactive approach
Talking to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer is an important step to take. The Methodist Breast Center can be an important part of this process, providing information about your specific risk factors and ways you may be able to reduce your risk. These conversations are also a great way to discuss breast cancer detection — and if done early — it's one of the best ways to improve the likelihood of successful treatment.