Research indicates that the principal, unalterable risk factors for breast cancer are quite simply being a woman and getting older. However multiple factors from genetics to lifestyle can have an influence on breast cancer incidence, though the degree of causality is not always easy to determine. The California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP) has developed a fascinating interactive diagram that visualizes the many factors and relationships influencing cancer incidence in women.
As the CBCRP explains, “Often scientists look at just one factor at a time when they investigate causes of breast cancer, but in reality many factors need to be considered at the same time. This model illustrates many of the factors that can lead to breast cancer and how they may interact with others. It is meant to demonstrate the complexity of breast cancer causation, while, at the same time, providing an educational tool for the public’s understanding and for stimulating new scientific research. Only factors for which there was some evidence of effects in women or evidence of effects in animals with relevance to women were included. However, not all possible factors could be added, in an effort to keep the model relatively simple.
Each factor was related to breast cancer based on evidence from the literature on the strength of the relationship at three levels (strong, moderate, weak) and the quality of the data at three levels (high, medium, low)”.