The origin of breast cancer is a complex interaction between the biologic and endocrine properties of the person and the environmental exposures that may precipitate mutation of cells to a malignancy. The greatest risk by far is family history of breast cancer.

Other risk factors include European ancestry, residence in North America or Europe, age of more than 40, personal history of breast cancer (three- to fourfold increased risk), history of benign breast disease, nulliparity or an age more than 30 years for the first-time pregnancy, menarche before 12, menopause after 55, postmenopausal obesity (especially if the excess fat is in the waist area, as opposed to the hips and thighs), and diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure. Recent studies support an association of breast cancer with moderate alcohol intake, high-fat diet, and prolonged hormonal replacement therapy. Other environmental factors include exposure to radiation (during childhood or significant chest radiation) or pesticide residues. Many women with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors.



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