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Groups at elevated risk for breast cancer

Being 50 or older is one of various factors that increases a woman's risk for breast cancer.

The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 exceeded two million. That figure, courtesy of the World Health Organization, underscores the significance of the threat posed by the disease.

Though no one is immune to breast cancer, researchers have concluded that certain groups have a higher risk of developing the disease than others. Women who recognize their personal risk for breast cancer may not be able to change certain factors that increase their chances of developing the disease. However, recognition of their personal risk could put women in position to lower that risk in other ways. According to the WHO, the following are some groups who are at elevated risk of developing breast cancer.

• Women: Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that less than 1 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men. Though it's still important for men to recognize they're not immune to the disease, women must also recognize that nearly all of the more than two million annual breast cancer diagnoses across the globe are found in women.

• Women 50 and older: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. A report from the National Cancer Institute indicates that a 30-yearold woman has a 1 in 204 chance (0.49 percent) of being diagnosed with breast cancer, while a 40-year-old has a 1 in 65 chance (1.55 percent) of being diagnosed. By the time women reach age 60, their risk is 1 in 28 (3.54 percent), while a 70-year-old has a 1 in 24 chance (4.09 percent) of being diagnosed. Though women of any age can get the disease, the risk clearly increases as women get older.

• Women who meet the criteria for being overweight or obese: The nonprofit organization Susan G. Komen , which helps to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer, notes that women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 20 to 60 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who are not overweight or obese. The American Cancer Society reports that having more fat tissue increases breast cancer risk because it raises estrogen levels. However, the ACS notes the link between weight and breast cancer risk is complicated, so it's worth it for women concerned about their cancer risk to open a dialogue with their physicians.

• Women who consume alcohol: The MD Anderson Cancer Center reports that alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk are linked. Though the precise cause of the link is unknown, one theory suggests that consuming alcohol can increase estrogen levels as well as the levels of other hormones associated with breast cancer. However, the MDACC warns that the risk is very low, particularly for women who limit their consumption to one drink or less per day. Routinely consuming more than one alcoholic drink per day is a cause for concern.

It's vital that women recognize their risk for breast cancer. Though any woman can be diagnosed with breast cancer, certain factors, including some that can be avoided, can increase a woman's risk for the disease.

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