Information for the public
Risk factors for breast cancer
There is no single cause of breast cancer but there are things known as risk factors that can increase your risk. Age is the biggest known risk factor, with about 4 out of 5 of all breast cancers occurring in women over 50. Other risk factors are taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for symptoms of menopause, taking the oral contraceptive pill, drinking alcohol, and being overweight after the menopause. Breastfeeding and physical activity may reduce risk.
Occasionally families have a faulty gene, which may be passed down from mothers or fathers to their children. A person who inherits a fault in a BRCA1, BRCA2 or TP53 gene is at high risk of developing breast cancer. The number of people (women and men) with a fault in one of these genes is very small. Having a faulty gene is a risk factor, but does not automatically mean that you will develop breast cancer.