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Cancer statistics: Breast

Breast cancer: Incidence

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. In 2011, 49,932 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. This page only looks at female breast cancer and not the approximately 400 men in the UK diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

This is because while there is strong evidence about risk factors for female breast cancer, it is not clear that these also apply to breast cancer risk for men.

Breast cancer: Mortality

Breast cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK. In 2011, 11,632 women died of breast cancer.

Proportion preventable

Scientists estimate the following proportion of breast cancer cases could be prevented in the UK:

Lifestyle factor Does having more increase or decrease risk? Approximate % preventable in UK through healthy changes
Alcohol Increase 22
Physical activity Decrease 12
Body fatness Increase 16
Total   42

There is also convincing evidence that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of breast cancer and this is why WCRF UK recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months. The evidence also shows that excess fat around the waist probably increases risk of breast cancer.

You can find out more about how these preventability estimates were calculated. For detailed information about what change would be needed for each factor, download Appendix A of the Policy Report on the Diet and Cancer Report website.

The figures on incidence and mortality come from the following sources: for England (incidence); for Wales (incidence); for England and Wales (mortality); for Scotland; and for Northern Ireland.

Note - Northern Ireland mortality figures are for 2010 not 2011.


Worldwide cancer statistics pie chart

Page last reviewed: July 2013
Page next due for review: July 2014
The information on this page is based on the findings of our Expert Report and is covered by the Information Standard.

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