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Breast Cancer Risk Factors

At a Glance

These factors can increase or decrease breast cancer risk. The protective factors can actually reduce breast cancer risk.

Factors that influence breast cancer risk include:

  • Lifestyle factors like diet and exercise
  • Systemic factors like race, power, and inequities
  • Chemical and radiation exposures (see our Glossary of Exposures for more)
  • Genetics 

See pullouts from Paths to Prevention: the California Breast Cancer Primary Prevention Plan for the science on each breast cancer risk factor.


Ban PFAS in Clothing and Cosmetics CA AB2771 AB1817 Action

Chemicals in Consumer Products

  • Starting in utero, we are exposed to harmful chemicals from consumer products
food safe glass containers plant based diet

Diet and Nutrition

  • Healthy dietary patterns may be protective against breast cancer.


  • 5-10% of breast cancers are attributed to genetic history
Medical imaging Radiation

Ionizing Radiation

  • Medical diagnostic procedures such as CT scans and X-rays
Light Pollution Map

Light at Night

  • Nightshift work is a probable human carcinogen
Non-ionizing radiation cell phones and digital devices

Non-Ionizing Radiation

  • Cell phone evidence mixed
  • Risk from electric power transmission line close proximity
Female janitor with cleaning supplies occupational hazard


  • Chronic chemical exposure in the workplace
birth controll pills synthetic and pharmaceutical hormones

Pharmaceutical Hormones

  • Some Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatments are known carcinogens
Woman running active outdoors

Lack of Physical Activity

  • Physical activity is protective against breast cancer
girl stands in water in front of industrial plant

Place-based Chemical Exposures

  • Highway pollution, industrial facilities, and trash disposal sites
Pregnant women holding hands

Pregnancy-related Factors

  • Age, number of births, and breastfeeding can all impact risk
smoking tobacco


  • Smoking tobacco, secondhand, and thirdhand smoke are toxic

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