Breast Cancer - Metastatic: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing metastatic breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the risk factors for metastatic breast cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer or having it come back after it is first treated. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

Risk factors for breast cancer

Most people who develop breast cancer of any stage have no obvious risk factors and no family history of breast cancer. But multiple factors may raise a person’s risk of developing the disease. Visit the Risk Factors and Prevention section of the earlier-stage Breast Cancer guide to learn about them.

Risk factors for metastatic breast cancer

Any type of breast cancer can metastasize. It is not possible to predict which breast cancers will metastasize. Whether metastasis happens depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of breast cancer, such as hormone receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive, or triple-negative breast cancer (see Introduction)

  • How the cancer grows. For example, is it a faster growing cancer or a slower growing cancer?

  • The stage of the cancer when first diagnosed, including the tumor size and whether cancer was found in nearby lymph nodes

There is no proven way to completely avoid developing metastatic breast cancer. Research continues to evaluate why metastatic breast cancer occurs and how to prevent, slow, or stop the growth of metastatic cancer cells.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems metastatic breast cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.