Back to Live Well

Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors & Preventive Care

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be difficult to take time to prioritize your health. However, understanding and working to prevent common diseases such as breast cancer is crucial to your overall well-being.

Breast cancer affects nearly a quarter-million people in the United States yearly, and although deaths from the disease have lessened as treatments improved, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women.1  The commonality of breast cancer warrants attention, as do preventive measures combined with education on identifying common risk factors.

Risk Factors Explored

Understanding the risk factors associated with breast cancer diagnoses is crucial. Providers look at an array of factors to determine your risk for breast cancer.

Your Family History

It’s important to know your family history of breast cancer if at all possible. Your doctor will look at close blood relatives, such as mothers, sisters, or daughters, to determine if you have any genetic predispositions to the disease.  If a large number of more distant relatives, such as grandparents or aunts, also have or have had breast cancer, your chance increases slightly as well.

Gender, Race, and Age

Individuals assigned female at birth account for over 99% of breast cancer cases.2 Each year, out of the 264,000 women who suffer from breast cancer, 42,000 die from the disease, on average. According to the CDC, white and black women have the highest rates of breast cancer, although black women are more likely to die from the disease.2

Although men can also get breast cancer, it is much less common. One out of every 100 cases are found in a man.

Age also plays an important role; the older you are, the higher your likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Most patients are 50 years or older when cancer is determined.3

Estrogen Exposure

Lengthy exposure to estrogen can also impact your risk for breast cancer. Early-onset menstruation (before age 11) and late-onset menopause (after age 55) have been shown to increase lifetime estrogen exposure.

Dense Breast Tissue

It can be more difficult to detect breast cancer for those with dense breast tissue. The lack of fatty tissue can make it more challenging to see abnormalities in traditional screenings. If you have dense breast tissue, it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant in monitoring.2


There are many different warning signs for breast cancer. Although some will not experience any at all, symptoms can include the following:4

  • Change in shape and size of breast
  • Pain or swelling
  • Nipple discharge
  • A new lump in the breast or underarm

Prevention is the Key to Lowering Risk

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), coverage for preventive services is a requirement. It’s important to not only offer preventive services for women, but to encourage utilization. Here are some examples of preventive measures you can explore5

  • Regular screenings, like mammograms
  • A healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition and regular exercise
  • Avoid or limit alcohol
  • Avoid smoking
  • Breastfeeding for new mothers

BSAs Mammogram Network

At BSA, we understand how important it is to find the right care when you need it. Our extensive mammogram network gives our members access to regular screenings, allowing them to stay aware of any changes in their breast health. If you’re a woman over the age of 40, we recommend making a mammogram appointment with your gynecologist once a year.

To learn more about how BSA works to help prevent breast cancer and deliver better care for our members, get in touch! We’re always eager to positively improve the lives of women and men affected by breast cancer in any way we can.