LAS VEGAS -- Women who have no family history of breast cancer may have a false sense of security about their risk for getting the disease.
A six-year study of 6,000 women found most of those who developed breast cancer had no family history. But it is one of many factors which can help assess your risk. Oncologist Dr. Heather Allen starts by asking patients when they started their period.
"If you start before the age of 12, that adds another tick up in your overall risk assessment. If you don't have any children or you have your first child after the age of 30, same thing. That all has to do with the exposure of the breast to estrogen," said Dr. Heather Allen, Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada.
One of the biggest risk factors, besides being a woman, is simply being over the age of 50. And the risk rises with age. But many women who score low on all the known risk factors still wind up getting breast cancer. Dr. Allen explains why it's still vital to know your risk.
"We can't change some things that happened in the past like having your first child at the age of 36, or not having any. But for women who are at high risk there's a medication called tamoxifen that we know can reduce your risk by about 50 percent."
If you'd like to take a risk assessment quiz, click here.