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Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from cells in the breast. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Most breast cancers develop in adults over the age of 50
  • Family history: The chance of developing breast cancer increases when immediate family members have had the disease
  • Personal history: Women who had cancer in one breast have an increased risk of developing cancer in another area of that same breast or in the other breast
  • Reproductive history: Women who began menstruating before 12, who experienced menopause after 55, who were pregnant for the first time after age 30 or never had children can increase risk
  • Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol can slightly increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer
  • Weight: Being overweight is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer

Signs and Symptoms

  • Abnormal lump in the breast or underarm
  • Skin changes to the breast such as redness, scaliness, thickening, swelling or tenderness
  • Changes in the nipple such as pain, nipple turning inward or abnormal discharge


Women are encouraged to discuss their personal and family history with their physicians to best determine when breast screening should begin and to determine the type of screening. For women of average risk, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends a mammogram annually beginning at the age of 40.

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