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Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common form of breast cancer. Accounting for about 75% of all breast cancer cases, IDC starts in a breast’s milk ducts—the tubes that transfer milk from the lobules to the nipple.

Causes of invasive ductal carcinoma

The causes of invasive ductal carcinoma have not been conclusively established. Researchers have determined that cancer can form when the cells in a milk-producing duct undergo mutations (changes) that cause them to grow uncontrollably, divide rapidly or remain viable longer than they should. The result is an accumulation of excess cells that can form a mass or tumor and potentially spread to nearby lymph nodes and distant areas of the body. The underlying reason for those cellular changes, however, remains unclear.

In rare cases, the causes of invasive ductal carcinoma have been traced to inherited factors, such as mutations of the:

  • Breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1), a tumor suppressor gene
  • Breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), a tumor suppressor gene
  • ErbB2 gene, which produces the HER2 protein that promotes rapid cellular growth

Invasive ductal carcinoma risk factors

By evaluating the results of extensive studies, scientists have identified certain hormonal, environmental and lifestyle factors that may influence a person’s breast cancer risk. A breast cancer risk factor is any characteristic that influences the likelihood that an individual will develop the condition at some point during her (or his) lifetime.

Even so, it’s important to keep in mind that most people have one or more risk factors and never develop breast cancer. Likewise, some people with breast cancer have no known risk factors. Most likely, a complex interaction of several factors is the precise cause of breast cancer.

Invasive ductal carcinoma risk factors you can’t change

The main characteristics that influence breast cancer risk are gender and age. While invasive ductal carcinoma sometimes affects biological men, the majority of patients are biological women who are diagnosed at age 55 and older. Because these and other risk factors cannot be controlled, it is doubly important to be aware of them, to use this information to make informed health care choices and to consult with a physician promptly if any health changes occur.

In addition to gender and age, other non-controllable factors that can increase an individual’s risk of developing invasive ductal carcinoma include having:

  • A family history of breast cancer
  • A personal history of breast cancer or benign breast disease
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Prior radiation treatment to the chest area

Invasive ductal carcinoma risk factors you can change

There are a handful of controllable behaviors that can increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. These include:

  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)—a synthetic form of estrogen
  • Obesity
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Alcohol and tobacco use
  • Night-shift work

Invasive ductal carcinoma prevention

It’s impossible to definitively prevent any type of breast cancer, including invasive ductal carcinoma. Still, there are certain factors that may help reduce a person’s risk. One such factor is having fewer menstrual cycles over the course of a lifetime—for instance, a late onset of menstruation, an early menopause, multiple pregnancies and breastfeeding have all been shown to have a protective effect. 

Other factors that can help lower a person’s likelihood of developing breast cancer include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting or eliminating alcohol use
  • Staying physically active
  • Quitting smoking

Stopping use of hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives may also reduce breast cancer risk, although the benefits of these medications often outweigh any dangers. Speak with a physician if you’re interested in learning more about breast cancer prevention strategies and what approaches may be right for you.

Moffitt’s advanced approach to invasive ductal carcinoma

The Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center—Florida’s No. 1 cancer hospital—offers breast cancer patients all of the guidance, treatment and support they may need in a single location. Through our advanced Genetic Counseling and Testing Service, we have helped many people explore their options for risk reduction, early detection and treatment.

If you’d like to speak with a physician about general invasive ductal carcinoma risk factors, strategies to lower your personal risk level or breast cancer screening, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are required.

References Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Breast Cancer?