Women with benign breast disease have a higher risk of breast cancer than the general population. However, the elevation in risk greatly depends on the type of benign breast disease. Women with proliferative disease without atypia have modestly increased risk of breast cancer compared to women with normal breasts or non-proliferative disease. On the other hand, those with atypical proliferative subtypes (atypical ductal hyperplasia or atypical lobular hyperplasia) have relatively high risk.

Approximately 70% of women who have a biopsy for benign breast disease have non-proliferative lesions, 26% have typical hyperplasia (which is associated with approximately two-fold increased risk compared to the general population), and 4% have atypical hyperplasia (which is associated with approximately five-fold increased risk).

Benign breast disease tends to be more prevalent among breast cancer patients with early diagnoses (20 to 44 years) and in those with a family history of breast cancer. One 2015 study concluded that women under age 35 diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia should be followed closely, receiving annual breast cancer screening starting at age 25 or age of diagnosis. This was based on the fact that 12% of such women developed breast cancer within a median of 90 months of their diagnosis with atypical hyperplasia.

Older African-American women are at greater risk for progression to breast cancer from benign breast disease. African-American women with benign breast disease who were at least 50 years old were found to be 2.28 times more likely to develop breast cancer than non-African American women who were younger than 50 years old in one study.

Regular exercise appears to reduce the risk of benign breast disease.

Foods that reduce risk of benign breast disease

The following foods have been found to reduce the risk of benign breast disease:

Arctic char
Canola oil
Dietary fiber
Fish oil supplements
Flaxseed oil
Herring
Lake trout
Mackerel
Salmon, wild
Sardines
Walnuts and other nuts

Foods that increase risk of benign breast disease

The following beverages have been found to increase the risk of benign breast disease:

Alcohol
Coffee
Highly caffeinated drinks
Adolescent alcohol consumption in particular is associated with higher risk of proliferative benign breast disease.

Below are links to recent studies on this topic. For a more complete list of studies, please click on benign breast disease.