Skip to main content


Log in

Risk factors for breast cancer in women: an update review

  • Review Article
  • Published:
Medical Oncology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Breast Cancer remains, according to the World Health Organization, the most complex disease cancer in 2021 in the world and the most common cause of death among women. Based on unequivocal scientific data, the establishment of an operative program for prevention could save lives of millions women suffering from breast cancer. In this update review, we highlight the major risk factors related to breast cancer investigated in women over the last 5 years. Thus, we clarify the involvement of these risk factors in the occurrence and growth of breast cancer. Investigations of 15 studies (n = 1,254,418; six case–control studies, five cohort studies, three prospective studies, and one meta-analysis) revealed that age, family history, obesity, use of oral contraceptives, status menopausal, smoking, alcohol consumption, lifestyle, and genetics factors are significantly linked to breast cancer. Additional studies are needed to corroborate these outcomes and initiate new practices aimed at preventing breast cancer.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  1. Cancer du sein. 2021. Accessed 18 Jun 2021.

  2. Breast cancer. 2021. Accessed 30 Jul 2021.

  3. Fouhi ME, Benider A, Gaëtan KZA, Mesfioui A. Profil épidémiologique et anatomopathologique du cancer de sein au CHU Ibn Rochd, Casablanca. Pan Afr Med J. 2020. 37: 41. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.

  4. Benider A, HM. Registre des cancers de la région de Casablanca, Casablanca-Maroc. Fondation Lalla Salma prévention et traitement des cancers. 2016. file:///C:/Users/hp/Desktop/Doctorat%20cancer/RCRGC.pdf

  5. Thakur P, Seam RK, Gupta MK, Gupta M, Sharma M, Fotedar V. Breast cancer risk factor evaluation in a Western Himalayan state: a case–control study and comparison with the Western World. South Asian J Cancer. 2017. 6: 106–109. Accessed 17 Jan 2022

  6. Kuchenbaecker KB, Hopper JL, Barnes DR, Phillips KA, Mooij TM, Roos-Blom MJ, et al. Risks of breast, ovarian, and contralateral breast cancer for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers. JAMA. 2017.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Dorling L, Carvalho S, Allen J, González-Neira A, Luccarini C, Wahlström C, et al. Breast cancer risk genes - association analysis in more than 113,000 Women. N Engl J Med. 2021;384:428–39.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Adedokun B, Zheng Y, Ndom P, Gakwaya A, Makumbi T, Zhou AY, et al. Prevalence of inherited mutations in breast cancer predisposition genes among Women in Uganda and Cameroon. N Engl J Med. 2020;29:359–67.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Breast Cancer Risk Genes. Association analysis in more than 113,000 women. N Engl J Med. 2021;2021(384):428–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Nindrea RD, Aryandono T, Lazuardi L. Breast cancer risk from modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors among women in Southeast Asia: a meta-analysis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev APJCP. 2017;18:3201–16.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Brewer HR, Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Family history and risk of breast cancer: an analysis accounting for family structure. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017;165:193–200.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Al-Ajmi K, Lophatananon A, Ollier W, Muir KR. Risk of breast cancer in the UK biobank female cohort and its relationship to anthropometric and reproductive factors. PLoS ONE. 2018;13:e0201097.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  13. Kour A, Sharma S, Sambyal V, Guleria K, Singh NR, Uppal MS, et al. Risk factor analysis for breast cancer in premenopausal and postmenopausal women of Punjab, India. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev APJCP. 2019;20:3299–304.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Schoemaker MJ, Nichols HB, Wright LB, Brook MN, Jones ME, O’Brien KM, et al. Adult weight change and premenopausal breast cancer risk: a prospective pooled analysis of data from 628,463 women. Int J Cancer. 2020;147:1306–14.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Vieira R, Tobar JSS, Dardes R, Thuler LCS. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for breast cancer development: a case-control study in Brazil. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev APJCP. 2018;19:703–7.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Al Ajmi K, Lophatananon A, Mekli K, Ollier W, Muir KR. Association of nongenetic factors with breast cancer risk in genetically predisposed groups of women in the UK Biobank Cohort. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3:e203760.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. Zeinomar N, Knight JA, Genkinger JM, Phillips KA, Daly MB, Milne RL, et al. Alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and familial breast cancer risk: findings from the prospective family study cohort (ProF-SC). Breast Cancer Res BCR. 2019;21:128.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Dydjow-Bendek DA, Zagożdżon P. Early alcohol use initiation, obesity, not breastfeeding, and residence in a rural area as risk factors for breast cancer: a case-control study. Cancers. 2021;13:3925.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Wright LB, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Smoking and risk of breast cancer in the generations study cohort. Breast Cancer Res BCR. 2017;9:118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Colditz GA, Kaphingst KA, Hankinson SE, Rosner B. Family history and risk of breast cancer: nurses’ health study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012;133:1097–104.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. Colditz GA, Willett WC, Hunter DJ, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Hennekens CH, et al. Family history, age, and risk of breast cancer. Prospective data from the nurses’ health study. JAMA. 1993;270:338–43.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Eliassen AH, Hankinson SE, Rosner B, Holmes MD, Willett WC. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170:1758–64.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. McTiernan A, Wu L, Chen C, Chlebowski R, Mossavar-Rahmani Y, Modugno F, et al. Relation of BMI and physical activity to sex hormones in postmenopausal women. Obes Silver Spring Md. 2006;14:1662–77.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. McTiernan A, Tworoger SS, Ulrich CM, Yasui Y, Irwin ML, Rajan KB, et al. Effect of exercise on serum estrogens in postmenopausal women: a 12-month randomized clinical trial. Cancer Res. 2004;64:2923–8.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Arthur RS, Wang T, Xue X, Kamensky V, Rohan TE. Genetic factors, adherence to healthy lifestyle behavior, and risk of invasive breast cancer among women in the UK Biobank. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst. 2020;112:893–901.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Hamajima N. Alcohol, tobacco and breast cancer – collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 58 515 women with breast cancer and 95 067 women without the disease. Br J Cancer. 2002;87:1234–45.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Gaudet MM, Carter BD, Brinton LA, Falk RT, Gram IT, Luo J, et al. Pooled analysis of active cigarette smoking and invasive breast cancer risk in 14 cohort studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2017;46:881–93.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Gram IT, Braaten T, Terry PD, Sasco AJ, Adami HO, Lund E, et al. Breast cancer risk among women who start smoking as teenagers. Cancer epidemiol prev biomark. AmAssoc Cancer Res. 2005;14:61–6.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors declare that no funds, grants, or other support were received during the preparation of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Draft preparation and data collection were performed by NF and NEK. The first draft of the manuscript was written by NF. Data analysis was performed by NF, MAC, ML, HD, AH, AB, and NEK. All authors revised the previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nadia El Kadmiri.

Ethics declarations

Competing interest

The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

Ethics approval

This is a review study. No ethical approval is required.

Informed consent

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Fakhri, N., Chad, M.A., Lahkim, M. et al. Risk factors for breast cancer in women: an update review. Med Oncol 39, 197 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: