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Breast Cancer Resource
Risk Factors: Young Women

Risk Factors: Young Women

For breast cancer, young means under the age of 40. Breast cancer is less common in women under the age of 40 but when diagnosed, often times it is more aggressive and less responsive to hormone therapies.

Women diagnosed under the age of 40 are more likely to have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. These genes are important to the development of breast cancer and increase a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer during her lifetime. Women who carry this gene have a 50 to 85 percent chance of developing cancer during their lifetime. Having a mother, daughter, or sister who has or had breast cancer also increases a young woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Diagnosing breast cancer in young women is at times more difficult because their breast tissue is often thicker and more dense that the tissue in older women. By the time a lump can be felt in a younger woman, it is often large enough and advanced enough to lower her chances of survival.

Here’s what YOU should do:
Talk to your family to learn about your family health history.
Talk to your doctor about your personal risk of breast cancer.
Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you if you are higher risk.
Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk.
Ask whether you should start getting mammograms or other tests before age 40.
Have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at 40.
Know how your breasts look and feel and report changes to your health care provider right away. Don’t wait!
Make health lifestyle choices that may reduce your risk of breast cancer, such as maintain a healthy weight, exercise, limit alcohol intake and breastfeed if you can.