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One woman in eight will get breast cancer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

4 February 2011

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The lifetime risk of getting breast cancer has risen from one woman in nine to one in eight1 – according to Cancer Research UK.

New figures2 published today on World Cancer Day also show that breast cancer rates in the UK have increased by 3.5 per cent in 10 years with 47,700 women diagnosed with the disease in 2008 compared with 42,400 in 1999.

The biggest rise in rates was among women aged between 50 and 69 where cases increased by more than six per cent in the same 10 year period. Rates among younger women aged 25 to 49 dropped slightly by 0.5 per cent.

In 2008 around 22,900 women aged between 50 and 69 were diagnosed with breast cancer – almost half (48 per cent) of the total number of cases. Around 15,700 cases (33 per cent) were diagnosed in women over 70 and 9,100 cases (19 per cent) in women aged 25-49.

Lifestyle factors and having a family history of the disease increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Today, women tend to have fewer children later in life and this too increases risk.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “Women cannot change their genes but small changes in everyday habits can help to reduce cancer risk. Cutting back on alcohol by keeping within government recommended limits of no more than 14 units a week (a small drink a day) helps. Taking more exercise and eating a diet high in fibre but low in saturated fat can help maintain a healthy weight – which in turn reduces breast cancer risk.

“Women should also discuss hormone replacement therapy with their doctor as long-term use can raise breast cancer risk.

“Mammograms will pick up breast cancers early on before they can be felt as a lump or spotted through other visible changes and we know that the earlier a cancer is detected the more successful treatment is likely to be so women can benefit by taking up invitations to breast screening.”

But there is good news on breast cancer survival. Almost two out of every three women with breast cancer now survive their disease beyond 20 years. And more than three-quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive for at least 10 years or more. Research has been at the heart of this progress.


For press enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300, or the out of hours’ duty press officer on 07050 264059.