Risk Factors for Developing Breast Cancer

Established risk factors for developing breast cancer:


Age > 65 years (compared to a 35-year-old woman): Relative risk: >4

Family History

Two first-degree relatives (diagnosed at early age): Relative risk: >4

One first-degree relative (diagnosed at early age): Relative risk: 2-4

Personal History

Abnormal biopsy: Relative risk: 2-4

Abnormal hyperplasia: Relative risk: 2-4

Hormonal Factors:

Age at first full-term pregnancy > 30 yrs: Relative risk: 1-2

Age at menarche: < 12 yrs: Relative risk: 1-2
Age at menopause: > 55 yrs: Relative risk: 1-2
Nulliparous: Relative risk: 1-2

Recent oral contraceptive use: Relative risk: 1-2
Recent to past and long-term use of estrogen-progestin therapy: Relative risk: 1-2
Obesity (postmenopausal): Relative risk: 1-2

Relative Risk (RR): Risk of developing breast cancer with risk factor present compared with risk when factor is absent.

RR1 = no difference in risk between groups;

RR4 = women with risk factors are 4 times more likely to develop breast cancer than those without risk factors.


According to a recent research conducted by Yale university, 8 out of 10 people who carry a gene for breast, ovarian or prostate cancer are unaware that they carry the gene. Women with a mutated BRCA1 and 2 genes are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women with BRCA gene mutations have up to an 80% risk of developing breast cancer by age 80. Likewise, men with the same gene mutation are at higher risk of both breast and also prostate cancer; especially for the more aggressive forms. So, if you have a first degree relative with a prostate or breast cancer, you might benefit from early screening.

Modifiable risk factors and naturopathic treatments for prevention of breast cancer: 

  • Drinking alcohol:increases women’s risk of developing breast cancer, but many women aren’t aware of this link. A recent study done on women undergoing breast cancer screening has shown that about half the women knew that smoking was a risk factor for breast cancer, and 30% recognized obesity as a risk factor, but only 20% knew that consuming alcohol was a risk factor.
  • Breast feeding: reduces a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Research shows mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer.
  • Lignans: (found in flaxseed in high concentration) have shown to help with estrogen sensitive breast cancer.
  • Vitamin C and green tea extract: both act as strong antioxidants and help with suppression of tumor cell growth.
  • Garlic: Garlic has high amount of organic sulfides and polysulfides. It stimulates lymphocytes and macrophages, kill the cancerous cells and interferes with tumor cells metabolism.
  • Curcumin: is known to have an anti-cancerous activity due to its phenolic substances. Curcumin has been revealed to have an inhibitory action in all phases of cancer growth which are initiation, promotion, and propagation.
  • Echinacea: Flavonoids act as an immune-stimulant, they are present in Echinacea. Echinacea also lessens the harmful consequence of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Ginseng: ginsenghas shown to restart natural killer cells impaired during chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It also induces macrophages and enhances antibodies formation and helps with breast cancer.



  1. American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2005-2006. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/CAFF2005BrF.pdf.
  2. Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment: The expanding role of the Ob/Gyn. Available at: http://www.apgo.org/elearn/APGO_BC_Monograph.pdf.
  3. Chen J., Stavro P.M., Thompson L.U. Dietary flaxseed inhibits human breast cancer growth and metastasis and downregulates expression of insulin-like growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptor. Nutr. Cancer. 2002;43:187–192
  4. Galeone C., Pelucchi C., Levi F., Negri E., Franceschi S., Talamini R., Giacosa A., La Vecchia C. Onion and garlic use and human cancer. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2006;84:1027–1032.
  5. Dmitri O., Levitsky V., Dembitsky M. Anti-breast cancer agents derived from plants. Nat. Prod. Bioprospect. 2015;5:1–16.
  6. Donaldson M.S. Nutrition and cancer: a review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet.  J. 2004;20:3–19