Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Updated 
April 18, 2018
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Researchers are still learning why some women are more likely than others to develop triple-negative breast cancer. Research suggests that genes, age, race and ethnicity are risk factors.

Breast Cancer Gene Mutations

Everyone has BRCA1info-icon and BRCA2info-icon genes, which we get from our mother and father. When they work properly, these genes prevent the development of cancers. But a small percentage of people with breast cancer are born with a mutationinfo-icon, or error, in BRCA1 or BRCA2.

If you are born with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 geneinfo-icon mutation, you are at increased risk for developing breast, ovarianinfo-icon and other cancers throughout your life. The BRCA1 mutation puts you at higher risk for developing a basal-like breast cancer, such as triple-negative breast cancerinfo-icon. Scientists are still trying to find out why.

Keep in mind, not all breast cancers from BRCA mutations are triple-negative. In fact, BRCA2 mutations are more likely to develop hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, you and your relatives could carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. You could also be the first person in your family known to develop breast cancer because of a BRCA mutation. Knowing your BRCA status can help you and your doctors discuss an effective treatment plan and learn ways to reduce your risk for recurrenceinfo-icon. A geneticinfo-icon counselor can talk with you about genetic testing.

Age, Race or Ethnicity

Several studies suggest that ancestry has an effect on the risk of triple-negative breast cancerinfo-icon. For example, women of African ancestry have higher risks of getting triple-negative diease compared with women of western European or Latina ethnicity. Women who are premenopausalinfo-icon at diagnosisinfo-icon, meaning they have not yet gone through menopauseinfo-icon, also appear to have higher risks of getting triple-negative disease. 

Outside of the inhertied risk of BRCA mutations, researchers do not yet undertsand why premenopausal women (who tend to be younger), and women in some ethnic groups have higher rates of triple-negative breast cancer than other groups of women.

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