Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK. In 2010 over 49,500 women were diagnosed as suffering with the disease.
Thanks to a combination of screening and improved treatment, death rates have fallen by a third since the 1980s – although 11,600 women died from it in 2010, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Breast cancer risk increases with age, and around four out of five women diagnosed with the disease are aged 50 or above. Having a strong family history of breast cancer or a previous diagnosis of the disease increases the risk.
Other well-established factors include having no or few children, having children later in life and not breast feeding. Obesity after the menopause, regularly drinking alcohol and taking HRT also increase the risk of breast cancer. Men can also get breast cancer but it is much rarer. Of all the cases diagnosed each year in the UK, less than 1% are males.
Statistics from Cancer Research UK.
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