What is a risk factor?
Nobody knows for sure why a particular woman develops breast cancer and another does not. There is no way to know for sure who will develop the disease.
But population studies have found groups of women that seem to be more protected, and others who are apparently more vulnerable to the disease. The difference between them is the fact that they are more or less exposed to some known factors.
These are called “risk factors”.
Despite being useful indicators for the propensity to develop the disease, risk factors cannot give the whole picture. A woman can have several risk factors, and yet not develop the disease, while another who has none goes on to develop it.
To learn about risk factors can help reducing the risk of disease. However it is important to know that most of them have very little weight on the disease.
In breast cancer in particular, avoidable risk factors have limited influence on the disease. Factors with significant weight, such as age or familial history, cannot be controlled.
For that reason the ones previously mentioned should be addressed with a critical eye. They are not decisive factors for the development the cancer, so should be seen as recommendations for a healthier life or as alerts for the need to keep a tighter watch for any early signs of disease. In this last case by doing regular breast cancer screenings.