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Anyone with breasts can develop breast cancer regardless of sex or gender.

Cancer occurs when abnormal breast cells divide and grow despite controls in place to block abnormal cell division.

Most people have abnormal cells. It isn't clear what triggers abnormal cells to begin dividing.

According to, researchers know that certain hormones, genetics, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors can increase the likelihood of breast cancer.

But people with few or no risk factors can still develop breast cancer, and people with many risk factors may never develop breast cancer.

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A new study shows the breast cancer rate among women 50 and over is rising dramatically.

What Causes Breast Cancer?

Normal cells such as skin cells constantly divide to renew itself. But abnormal cells divide rapidly and grow out of control.

As abnormal cells divide, they clump together in a mass or lump that develops its own blood supply. The cancer may spread to other structures and organs (metastatic cancer).

Most breast cancers in women and men start in the milk ducts; this is called invasive ductal carcinoma. Other breast cancers start in breast tissue cells, including glandular tissue called lobules; this is called invasive lobular carcinoma.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Breast cancer risk factors include certain hormones, genetics, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors. More causes of breast cancer are listed below.


The risk increases with age, which is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40.


Risk factors increase if a woman has a close family member with a history of breast cancer.

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Women who drink alcohol have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Sugar consumption

Drinking too many sugary beverages (sodas) may increase the risk of death from cancer.

Age of 1st menstruation cycle

Women who began menstruating before age 12 are at risk of breast cancer.



Giving birth to your first child after age 30 can increase your breast cancer risk. But women who have never been pregnant are at a greater risk of breast cancer than women who have given birth one or more times.


Women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), specifically HRT that combines estrogen and progesterone, increases the risk for certain types of breast cancer.


Obese postmenopausal women have a higher risk of breast cancer.

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Derrick Salters/

Mary J. Blige is leading a new breast cancer campaign aimed at Black women after confessing she ignored breast cancer screenings and mammograms until she was 40.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the 50-year-old "Family Affair" singer hopes to bring attention to breast cancer screenings and preventative care in an effort to save lives.


Taking part in a panel discussion organized by bosses at Hologic, the company behind the 3D Mammogram exam, Mary urged women of color to set aside medical mistrust and negative experiences with doctors and make sure they stay on top of cancer check-ups.

Derrick Salters/

"My aunt died from breast cancer and my grandmother died from cervical cancer and one of my aunts just died from lung cancer," Blige said, according to The Source. "What happens is they end up in the hospital and there's no one in our families speaking about it when we're younger.

"I didn't know about breast cancer or mammograms until I was 40 and I was in the music business and I was trying to take care of myself. My body started talking so I started listening. I found out about it at the GYN (gynecologist). They don't discuss this when we're children. They don't say, 'Go get a mammogram'. You learn about this as you get older."

Mary said it's "extremely important" to let women know, "that no matter how scary it is or who's telling you it's scary, take care of you. Take care of your health... I want to help women heal from breast cancer. I want to help us feel beautiful all the way around."

Screening tests include clinical and self breast exams, mammograms, genetic testing, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Screenings help to detect breast cancer early in asymptomatic women to improve outcomes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, regardless of race or ethnicity.

According to, about one in eight women in the U.S. (about 12.4 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her life.

breast cancer awareness

New breast cancer screening guidelines have been issued for Black women and women of color who are at high-risk for breast cancer. Statistics show more black women die from stage 3 and stage 4 cancers than non-Hispanic white women.

Black women are least likely to be diagnosed with stage 1 cancer because they were not screened in time.

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Dr. Laura Pearson and Dr. Sharon Harley

I confess: I am over age 50, and I have never had a mammogram. After a year of being scolded by Dr. Sharon Harley at the Women's Specialty Clinic, I finally made an appointment for my first mammogram. But not just because I was tired of hearing Dr. Harley's voice; I got my first mammogram because I want to live.

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