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Diseases & Conditions

Quiz: What's Your Risk

(Also Called 'Breast Cancer Quiz: What's Your Risk - Risk Factors')

1. My mother and sister have both been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Does this mean I will get breast cancer, too?

A. Yes
B. No
C. Maybe

C - Your risk is increased by two or three times that of the general population. Your risk may be even greater if your relative(s) developed breast cancer before menopause, or if the relative had breast cancer in both breasts. Note that only five to 10 percent of all breast cancers are hereditary. Your sister or mother may wish to consider genetic counseling to see if testing is recommended for the family. You should consult your doctor about personal breast cancer screening guidelines. You will probably be advised to have your first mammogram earlier and clinical breast exams at least once a year, and you may qualify for additional screening tests, such as breast MRI, which are more sensitive at detecting cancers early.

2. BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations (alterations in genetic material) increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

A - True. Women with an altered BRCA gene have an increased risk of developing breast cancer and at a younger age (before menopause). However, not all women who carry the BRCA genes will develop cancer.

BRCA1 was the first gene detected that increased the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The presence of this gene produces a greater-than-80 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 85. BRCA1 appears to account for about 45 percent of inherited breast cancers and 80 percent of families with both breast and ovarian cancer. An estimated one in 600 women carry this gene.

A second gene, BRCA2, also plays a major part in breast and ovarian cancer. It is also associated with a greater-than-80 percent risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 85. BRCA2 is also associated with an increased risk of male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma.

Both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be inherited from either parent. Men or women who carry one of these gene mutations have a one in two (50/50) chance of passing it on to each of their children.

3. My risk for breast cancer starts to increase after age 35.

A. True
B. False

A - Ture. Breast cancer is extremely uncommon in women under age 35. The risk of breast cancer increases as a woman grows older. The average age of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer in this country is 61.

4. Fibrocystic breast changes increase my risk of developing breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

B - False. Fibrocystic changes, the normal “lumpy tissue” that women feel on exam, are found in nearly all women and do not increase risk. Sometimes, fibrocystic changes are painful in association with hormonal fluctuations (rise and fall). Fibrocystic changes can occur in one or both breasts and are often prominent during a woman’s 40s. These changes are the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50.

5. If my breasts are dense, I should ask for a breast MRI.

A. True
B. False

B - False. Increased breast density is very common, affecting almost half of all women. A woman with dense tissue should discuss her risk factors with her health care provider and develop a screening plan together. MRI screening is reserved for very high-risk patients.

6. My diet can affect my risk for breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

A - True. Although the possible link between diet and breast cancer is still being studied, some researchers believe that a well-balanced diet similar to the Mediterranean diet contributes to lowering a woman’s risk. Maintaining ideal body weight, limiting alcohol, and regular exercise also appear to lower a woman’s risk.

7. The benign (non-cancerous) condition atypical hyperplasia can increase my risk of developing breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

A - True. Atypical hyperplasia is seen in 5-10% of benign breast biopsies and is associated with a 30% risk of developing breast cancer over the next 25 years. Medications are now available to reduce the risk.

8. Other risk factors for breast cancer include:

A. Starting menstruation at an early age (before 12)
B. Late onset of menopause (after age 55)
C. Postmenopausal obesity
D. Having a first child after age 30
E. Not having any children
F. All of the above

F.  All of these are risk factors that increase a woman's chance of developing breast cancer.

9. Tamoxifen can be taken to reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

A - True.  Women who have an increased risk of breast cancer can take tamoxifen to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. Research has also shown that, among high-risk participants who took tamoxifen, there was a 50 percent reduction in breast cancer rate. Tamoxifen is also often given to women with breast cancer who are pre-menopausal and whose breast cancer is found to be estrogen receptor-positive.

10. Using antiperspirant increases my risk of developing breast cancer.

A. True
B. False

B - False.  There is no evidence to support this idea. Recent Internet e-mail rumors have suggested that underarm antiperspirants hamper sweat gland function and allow toxins to build up, thereby increasing the risk of developing breast cancer. This has not been studied.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/3/2015...#8321