While certain breast cancer risk factors, including gender and age, are beyond women’s control, the American Cancer Society notes that certain factors are related to personal behaviors.
Alcohol consumption is one such lifestyle-related risk factor for breast cancer. Compared with nondrinkers, women who consume between two and five alcoholic drinks per day have about a 1.5 times greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who abstain from alcohol. A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer increases only slightly compared to nondrinkers if she has just one alcoholic beverage per day.
Weight is another breast cancer risk factor that women can control. Women who are overweight or obese have a greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who are not. Prior to menopause, women’s ovaries make most of their estrogen, with fat tissue making just a small amount. But women’s ovaries stop making estrogen when they enter menopause, at which time fat tissue produces most of their estrogen. Having excessive fat tissue can increase estrogen levels and raise a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
If or when a woman decides to have children can also affect her risk for breast cancer. According to the ACS, women who have not had children or who had their first child after turning 30 have a slightly higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer than women who had many pregnancies and became pregnant at an early age.