Age, lifestyle and risk


The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is increasing age. About 8 out of 10 women diagnosed (80%) are over 50. Nearly half of all breast cancers (45%) are in women over 65.

Lifestyle factors

The following lifestyle factors may slightly increase your breast cancer risk:


Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing breast cancer. The increase in risk is small for women who drink within the recommended guidelines.

Body weight

Being overweight, particularly after the menopause, increases the risk of breast cancer. This may be because it changes the levels of hormones in the body.


Smoking heavily over many years, especially starting at a young age, can increase risk.

Back to Potential causes of breast cancer

Hormonal factors

Your exposure to the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can affect your risk of developing breast cancer.