Risk Factors & Stages

Risk Factors

Studies show that the risk of breast cancer increases as a woman gets older. This disease is very uncommon in women under the age of 35. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 and the risk is especially high for women over age 60. Some risk factors include:

  • Personal history of breast cancer – women who have had breast cancer face an increased risk of getting breast cancer in their other breast.
  • Family history – a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer increases if a relative had breast cancer, especially at a young age. Ten percent of breast cancers are hereditary. Genetic counseling is available at Shands Healthcare.
  • Estrogen, which may play a role in breast cancer in various forms, including women who began menstruation at an early age (before age 12), who experienced menopause late (after age 55), who never had children or those who took hormone replacement therapy for long periods of time.
  • Late childbearing – women who have their first child after they are 30 years old.
  • Radiation therapy -women exposed to radiation therapy have higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Alcohol- some studies suggest a slightly higher risk of breast cancer among women who drink alcohol.

The National Cancer Institute provides an online tool to help you figure out your risk of breast cancer. You are encouraged to discuss the results and your personal risk of breast cancer with your doctor.

Stages of Cancer

  • Stage I and II are early stages of breast cancer in which the cancer has spread beyond the lobe or duct and invaded nearby tissue.
  • Stage III is also called locally advanced cancer. In this stage, the tumor in the breast is large (more than 2 inches across) and the cancer has spread to axillary lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV is metastatic cancer. The cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body or involves the entire breast and skin of the breast.
  • Recurrent cancer means the disease has come back in spite of initial treatment.