Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be a life altering event that leaves many people wondering what may have caused it. Although there is no one specific habit or genetic influence that causes breast cancer, there are some risk factors that increase your likelihood of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis.

Risk factors can either be modifiable or non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors include your genetics, menopause status, and family history. These risk factors cannot be changed to help reduce your risk, but modifiable risk factors can.

When we think about modifiable risk factors for different ailments we think of smoking and lung cancer, or drinking and liver cirrhosis. For breast cancer the risk factors are not as clear cut, or as obvious.

A case control study including 542 people analyzed lifestyle variables that can modify your risk of developing breast cancer. Of note, sedentary behaviour and alcohol consumption were both linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, regardless of menopausal status. Other lifestyle risks have varying effects on the likelihood of developing cancer and are highly dependent on menopause status (1).

Another population based cohort study that included 57,654 Swedish women aged 40–74 years, including 957 breast cancer cases, concluded that increased alcohol intake was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (2). Increased alcohol intake in this study was considered as more than one glass of alcohol per day.

Examining lifestyle factors can be challenging, and it is often difficult to narrow down the specific habits that increase breast cancer risk. Detailed studies have identified alcohol intake as a source of increased risk, while other lifestyle habits may still require further studies.


Godinho-Mota, J. C. M., Gonçalves, L. V., Mota, J. F., Soares, L. R., Schincaglia, R. M., Martins, K. A., & Freitas-Junior, R. (2019). Sedentary Behavior and Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk Regardless of Menopausal Status: A Case-Control Study. Nutrients11(8), 1871. doi:10.3390/nu11081871

Rainey, L., Eriksson, M., Trinh, T., Czene, K., Broeders, M.J., van der Waal, D. and Hall, P. (2020), The impact of alcohol consumption and physical activity on breast cancer: The role of breast cancer risk. Int. J. Cancer, 147: 931-939.