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Breast Cancer High Risk

Some women have a higher than average risk of getting breast cancer. This group includes:

  • Women who have inherited a breast cancer mutation
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer
  • Women with atypical hyperplasia
  • Women with a personal history of breast cancer
  • Women who have a Gail risk score of 1.66 or higher 
  • Women who have dense breasts

This section explains each of these general risk factors in more detail.  Learn more about risk and risk reduction options for high-risk women.

 

Inherited Mutation

Women who have inherited a breast cancer mutation are at higher than average risk for developing breast cancer

Between 5 and 10% of all breast cancer cases occur in women with a genetic mutation. Not everyone with the gene will develop breast cancer, but those who inherit it will have a higher risk. 


Family History

Women with a family history of breast cancer are at higher than average risk for developing the disease.


Personal History

Women with a personal history of breast cancer are at higher than average risk for developing a new cancer.

A woman with cancer in one breast has a three- to four-fold increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast. This is different from a recurrence (return) of the first cancer. This means that in a group of 100 women who have had breast cancer, 15 to 20 would be expected to develop a new breast cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.


Gail Risk Score

Women who have a Gail risk score of 1.66 or higher have a higher than average risk for developing breast cancer.


Breast Density

The breast contains ducts, glands, fibrous connective tissue, and fatty tissue. Breasts that are dense or very dense have a lot of fibrous, connective tissue and less fatty tissue. While virtually all women start out with very dense breast tissue, this typically changes over time.

In 2007, researchers reported findings that suggested breast density not only made it harder to find cancers, but was also was as an independent predictor of breast cancer risk.


Understanding Your Risk

Breast Cancer research can be difficult to understand. When trying to understand the outcomes of scientific studies that typically use statistical methods, there are many unfamiliar terms that can be overwhelming.

There are three kinds of risk commonly referred to when discussing breast cancer: absolute risk, relative risk, and attributable risk.


Risk Reduction

There are many options for high-risk women including:

High-Risk Breast Cancer Screening Programs 

A number of medical centers have established high-risk breast cancer screening programs to help identify and monitor women at high risk for developing breast cancer. Women often need to be referred to one of these centers by their primary care physician or ob/gyn.

Frequently Asked Questions