Risk factors

Risk factors

Non-modifiable factors

There are many predisposing factors for breast cancer. They are classified into non-modifiable and modifiable.


Cancer incidence increases rapidly with age during the fertile period: of the 35,000 cases diagnosed each year in Italy, 7000-8000 are women younger than 50 years, 13-14000 between 50 and 70 years, 8 -10000 at older ages.

A woman with less than 40 years has a chance of not surviving cancer 52%, mainly because the cancers that affect child-bearing age are more aggressive than those arising in older patients.

Family history and genetics

It has been identified some inherited genetic characteristics that expose women to a high risk of developing later in life a breast cancer.

In recent years, at least five genes responsible for the transmission of hereditary breast cancer: BRCA1, BRCA2, P53, PTEN, ATM are identified.

The mutation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 confers a risk of breast cancer by 60-90%.

WHO considers only first-degree relatives is estimated that the total risk factor is around 8% for women who have had no familial cases of breast cancer, 13% for those who have had a chance in first-degree relatives and 21% for those who have had two cases. The indications of the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer (LILT) instead of showing how even the familiar second-degree relatives (grandmothers, aunts).

It is therefore recommended to women with a family history of breast cancer to undergo specific blood tests to check whether or not they have inherited a change in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, potentially dangerous.

The main ethical and social implications of BRCA testing, towards self and others are discussed. The scientific and medical communities, along with patients, is actively engaged against genetic discrimination. Legislation in many countries now protects against genetic discrimination by insurance companies and employers.

A multidisciplinary approach offers the opportunity to educate people about the very high risk for cancer prevention to reduce risk, maximize early detection and improve survival.