The exact causes of breast cancers – including HER2 (human epidural growth factor receptor 2) positive breast cancer – are not fully understood. Still, certain factors are known to increase an individual’s risk of developing a breast malignancy. Not all of these risk factors can be controlled, but some can.
Here are a few of the most common risk factors associated with breast cancer:
- Being female (although rare, men can also develop breast cancer)
- Having a family history of breast cancer (this does not apply to HER2 positive breast cancers, which are not considered to be hereditary)
- Giving birth for the first time after age 30
- Receiving radiation therapy to the chest
- Being overweight
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Using tobacco products
Additionally, HER2 positive cancer – which makes up about 20 percent of breast cancer cases – is more likely to affect younger women.
It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will be diagnosed with breast cancer. On the other hand, not having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll never develop cancer. Risk factors are just characteristics that may leave you slightly more susceptible to disease.
If any of these risk factors apply to you, be particularly mindful of any changes in your breasts and see a physician for regular breast cancer screenings. Your physician will be able to determine an optimal schedule of preventive care based on your health, age and other risk factors.
How can I reduce my risk of breast cancer?
There are several steps you can take to lower your risk of breast cancer, and many are relatively easy. Consider:
- Losing excess weight
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a diet with plenty of nutrient-rich foods, particularly fruits and vegetables
- Quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco use
- Avoiding drinking alcohol in excess
Medically reviewed by Danielle Walker, APRN
Moffitt Cancer Center offers a leading-edge Genetic Counseling and Testing Service to provide valuable insight to patients who want to better understand their breast cancer risk. If you would like to consult with a Moffitt oncologist specializing in breast cancer about risk, screening options or preventive measures, submit a new patient registration form or call 1-888-663-3488.