Information on Breast Cancer: The Facts – Breast Cancer Campaign

Each year 40,470 women are newly diagnosed with breast cancer and although survival rates are improving, on average 74 per cent of women are still alive five years later, too many women will die from the disease. On average 12,840 women die from breast cancer each year.

Age is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer, with 80 per cent of all breast cancers occur in post-menopausal women (assuming average age of menopause is 50). However, approximately 8,200 pre-menopausal women are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Men can also suffer from breast cancer, although they make up less than one per cent of all new cases of the disease. Those who get breast cancer are usually over 60 years of age and approximately 60 per cent of these men survive for at least five years. Men account for 240 new cases of breast cancer a year in the UK and about 90 men die from the disease a year.

Britain has one of the highest breast cancer death rates in the world. Breast Cancer Campaign wants to understand why and do something about it. Statistics cannot begin to describe the impact that breast cancer has on the lives of those women who are affected by it and on their families, friends and colleagues.

Age and breast cancer

Trends in incidence in younger women The number of breast cancers occurring before the age of 25 has changed little over the years and remains very low.

The number of breast cancers occurring in women aged 25-34 has increased slightly, but the risk of developing the disease in this age group remains low. Trends in incidence in older women

The effect of breast screening makes it difficult to interpret breast cancer trends in older women. Before the introduction of screening the incidence of breast cancer was increasing steadily in all age bands above 45 years.

After 1988, the pattern changed with a sudden increase in new cases in women aged 50-64. The oldest age group, women aged 75-84, are less affected by screening and in this age group incidence increased until 1992 and then fell slightly. This suggests that incidence peaked in elderly women in 1992.

Cells collected from the breast using a nipple aspiration technique.

The human body is made up of billions of cells. Normally, these cells grow, divide and die in a controlled way to produce and replace the body’s tissue. If something disrupts this controlled process a cancer can grow.

Breast cancer is caused when the cells that make up the breast tissue fail to die, instead they endlessly divide and eventually grow into tumours. Once a tumour has formed, some of the cells can break off and travel to other parts of the body, and then form other tumours.

If the problem can be detected early on, then there is a good chance it can be successfully treated. The more the cancer has spread, the more difficult it is to treat.

About Breast Risk

Women are the most likely to develop breast cancer, every year around 40,470 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and 240 in men.

Age is the single most important factor in influencing breast cancer risk – the older a woman is the higher her risk of developing breast cancer, 80 per cent of all breast cancers occur in post-menopausal women (based on the average age of menopause being 50).

Women who have previously had breast cancer, face an increased risk in developing the disease again.

Family history – women with a hereditary genetic susceptibility account for between five and 10 per cent of all breast cancer cases. They tend to have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and these cancers usually occur in close family members, such as their grandmother, mother, aunt or sister, at an early age.

Hormones play an important role in the development of breast cancer:

Not having children – The risk of having breast cancer is reduced by having children at a younger age, the more children a woman has, the lower the risk. – adapted from CRUK.

A late first pregnancy – a woman who has her first child in her thirties is 63 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer before the menopause and 35 per cent more likely to develop the disease afterwards than a woman who has her first child at 22.

Starting your periods early – a woman whose periods began at the age of 15 is at only two thirds the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer of someone whose periods started at 11, with a decrease of seven per cent for each year that periods were delayed.

A late menopause– women who go through their menopause after the age of 55 are at a higher risk of developing the disease as those who experience the menopause before the age of 45.