There are lots of risk factors that play into whether or not you develop breast cancer – everything from your hormones to your genes to where you live. Here are some of the most common risk factors that many women aren’t aware of.
1. Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control – also known as the pill – uses estrogen and/or progesterone to stop unwanted pregnancies. While it is effective at preventing pregnancies, it can raise your risk of developing breast cancer by overstimulating breast cells.
A recent study in the journal Cancer Research found that the more estrogen was contained in their birth control pills, the higher the risk of breast cancer for women between the ages of 20 and 49 (1).
2. Not Breastfeeding
While there are many reasons why a woman might choose not to breastfeed – working mothers are often too busy, for example – the choice not to breastfeed may increase your risk for developing breast cancer.
Breastfeeding was associated with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer in one 2002 study (2), which also showed that the longer a woman breastfed her child, the lower her risk of breast cancer became.
3. Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption can increase your risk for breast cancer by 15 percent, according to one 2011 study (4). While little to moderate alcohol consumption is usually no big deal, drinking 2-5 glasses of wine a day can have serious health implications, including an increased risk of breast cancer. Try to stick to one glass every few days.
4. Late Night Snacking
Eating late at night might satisfy your midnight snack cravings, but it can be bad for your body – and your chances of developing breast cancer. One recent study found that late-night snacking was associated with an increased risk for breast cancer (5) due to elevated blood sugar levels.
5. Working The Night Shift
While working late is often unavoidable, it can wreak havoc on your body. In addition to throwing off your circadian clock and leaving you physically exhausted, it can also raise your breast cancer risk, according to one 2012 study (6).
The key is hormone levels – when your sleep schedule is out of whack, it impacts your hormones, leaving you more vulnerable than you would otherwise be.