August 24, 2016
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The Cleveland Clinic

Breast Cancer: Breast Cancer in Young Women


Younger women generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer. Only 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and all women should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer. (A risk factor is a condition or behavior that puts a person at risk for developing a disease.)

There are several factors that put a woman at high risk for developing breast cancer, including:

Risk factors include:

  • A personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast disease
  • A family history of breast cancer, particularly in a mother, daughter or sister
  • History of radiation therapy Evidence of a specific genetic defect (BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation). Women who carry defects on either of these genes are at greater risk for developing breast cancer.
  • A Gail Index score of at least 1.7% (The Gail Index uses risk factors such as age, family history of breast cancer, age of first menstrual period and first pregnancy, and number of breast biopsies to calculate a woman's risk of developing breast cancer within the next five years.)

An extended use of oral contraceptives (the Pill) later in life is also sometimes considered a factor for developing breast cancer. However, this is still subject to much debate in the medical community.

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