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Physicians and breast cancer resources often present information about certain risk categories when exploring underlying causes of breast cancer: lifestyle, inherited factors, and reproductive history. These factors are well documented as having significant (that is, statistically relevant) influence on the likelihood that women will develop breast cancer. However, less than half of all breast cancer cases in the United States can be attributed to these factors. The majority of women who develop breast cancer have none of these risk factors. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of women who do not develop the disease may have several of these risk factors.

Still, it is important to acknowledge these important and commonly discussed factors. It is also important to realize that growing evidence suggests that they may interact with environmental factors in additive or synergistic ways. Ultimately understanding the complexity of this interaction of different types of risks may best help us to understand the underlying causes of breast cancer.