How Family History Impacts Breast Cancer Risk

October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one of the most important aspects of breast cancer you can be aware of is how your family history impacts your risk of developing it. While family members share common features with you like eye color or hair color, it’s not as easy to recognize the medical conditions you may share. It is important to be aware of your family medical history because you may have increased risk for developing medical conditions if they run in your family. Talk to your primary care provide about all of your family health conditions. Awareness can help your physician determine an appropriate screening schedule, perhaps earlier than the normal age range. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests looking at existing family records; they offer insight to medical conditions or types of cancer your relatives have had, including breast cancer. When looking at your family history, you’ll want to gather information on parents, siblings, grandparents, and extended family members like aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. The state of Idaho is one of the lowest ranked states in terms of women who are getting mammograms. The standard age to begin screening for breast cancer through mammograms is 40 years old. However, based on family history, you may need to be screened at an earlier age. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, which means they form directly from gene changes (mutations) passed on from a parent. What if you do not have a family history of breast cancer? It is just as important to be proactive and get your annual screening. If one of your family members was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, you have an increased risk of also developing breast cancer. Having a mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 puts you at twice the risk of developing breast cancer compared to a woman who does not have a family history of breast cancer. Establishing a consistent exercise routine, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking or quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet and limiting alcohol consumption are all lifestyle steps you can incorporate into your daily life to help reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Family history is a critical indicator when it comes to health and breast cancer. Determining if you are at increased risk as early as possible is vital when determining the best course of prevention for you. Early detection is the best protection. That's why at Portneuf Medical Center, our mobile mammo coach makes it easy for you to schedule your mammogram. Visit for more information or call 208-239-1500 today to get scheduled today.