Dedicated to the care of breast cancer and all breast conditions
Dr Sarah Rayne is no longer practising in
Johannesburg and this practice is closed.

These pages are for information only,
and current only until 2018
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What puts you at risk of breast cancer?  
Simply put, every woman is at risk of breast cancer. Figures for South Africa are not very clear but at least 1 in 31 women (and probably closer to the 1 in 8 women worldwide figure) will get breast cancer. Few of them will have any obvious risk beyond their gender (being female!) and their age. These risk factors are not avoidable, either is your family history or factors like when you started or stopped your periods.

So, whilst it is good to identify any factors that might put you at increased risk of getting breast cancer, and it is great to avoid anything that will increase your risk, remember: if you have a breast problem, get it checked out.

Family History
Other breast diseases
Previous chest treatment with radiation
Post-menopausal breast density
Reproduction factors
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Important risk factors for breast cancer
Despite a lot of attention around young women getting breast cancer, the risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. Worldwide, at thirty the risk of breast cancer is 1 in 2000, increasing to 1in 50 at age fifty and by eighty years it is 1 in 10. That is why it is recommended that you start screening above the age of 40.
Family history:
Some families carry a gene that specifically increases the risk of breast, ovarian and other cancers called BRCA1 and BRCA 2. This includes Ashkenazi Jews and Afrikaans women. There are also other genetic abnormalities that can increase your risk. If there has been lots of cancer in your family, or cancers in people at a young age, consider seeing a specialist to get advice about your risk and about genetic counselling
Some other breast diseases:
This includes conditions such as hyperplasia with atypia or lobular carcinoma in situ. It does not include breast infections or trauma and bruising.
Other risk factors
Previous chest treatment with radiation:
This is most common in women who were treated for lymphoma cancer whilst they were young
Post-menopausal breast density:
This is measure on your annual screening mammogram and has become an important sign of increased risk of cancer equal to taking HRT. Ask your radiologist to determine and record on your mammogram report how dense your breasts are. You might want to discuss this risk with a specialist.
Reproduction factors:
Oestrogen, the female hormone, influences cell in the breast. Your lifetime exposure to oestrogen can be important the risk of breast cancer development. This means that starting your periods early (early menarche) and going through the menopause late; not having children or having them after 30 years; not breastfeeding; all increase your risk of cancer by a small amount.
Hormone Replacement Therapy:
Studies in the USA and in the UK have shown that women are at increased risk of breast cancer if they are taking most types of HRT for more than five years. It is also true that the closer to the menopause HRT is taken, the higher the risk of breast cancer. In real terms if 30 in 10,000 menopausal women get breast cancer, 38 in 10,000 women taking HRT will get it. This doesn’t mean no-one should take HRT but it does mean you should know why you are taking it and be clear about the benefits versus the risk of breast cancer.
If you drink heavily (more than 2 units a day/ 14 a week) you are at increased risk
The good news is that exercisewith a moderate daily exercise regimen (of 30 minutes each day) actually reduces your risk by 42%!

This is not an exhaustive list of risk factors. There are a lot of studies on this subject, but the key thing to know is every women should be aware of her risk, but also be breast-aware, check out a self-examination every month and go for screening over 40 years.