MYTH MONDAY: MYTH or FACT? Only Women Over 40 Get Breast Cancer


When it comes to breast cancer, “young” usually means anyone younger than 40 years old. Breast cancer is less common among women in this age group but it can and does happen! In the United States, about 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under age 40. While the risk of breast cancer increases with age, all women are at risk for getting breast cancer.

Women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have an increased risk of breast cancer [7-9]. Estimates of this increased risk vary greatly. Women who carry a BRCA1 gene mutation have a 50 to 70 percent chance of developing breast cancer by age 70. For BRCA2carriers, estimates range from 40 to 60 percent [8].

While in a group of 100 women with a BRCA1 orBRCA2 mutation, between 40 and 70 will develop breast cancer by age 70. Because these numbers represent average risk, the risk of breast cancer for any one woman with a BRCA1or BRCA2 mutation may fall outside this range.

Diagnosing breast cancer in young women can be more difficult because their breast tissue is often more dense than the breast tissue of older women. By the time a lump can be felt in a young woman, it is often large enough and advanced enough to lower her chances of survival. In addition, the cancer may be more aggressive and less responsive to hormone therapies. Delayed diagnosis in young women is a problem. Because it is rare for a young woman to get the disease, they are often told to wait and watch a lump. Tell your doctor if you notice any change in your breasts, and think about getting a second opinion if you are not satisfied with his or her advice.

Know Your Normal! 

For more information, visit the Komen National website at


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