Lifetime risk of breast cancer development

The overall lifetime risk of a woman developing breast cancer during her lifetime is now thought to be about 1 in 8. In 1989, a woman’s lifetime risk for developing breast cancer was about 1 in 10. That risk increased to about 1 in 7 by 2003. Even though it may seem that breast cancer risk has increased in recent years, the actual risk of mortality has decreased significantly. The table below demonstrates the probability of breast cancer diagnosis in 10 year intervals.

Women’s Age Risk of breast cancer
301 in 2000
401 in 233
501 in 53
601 in 22
701 in 13
801 in 9
overall1 in 8

I just want to let you know that I have created a newer version of this page with more up-to-date information on Lifetime Risks for Developing Breast Cancer Because this page is short, and somewhat old…Although it is still pretty useful.

What jumps out at you from the above statistics is the exponential increase in probability between age 30 and 40. A woman is about 8 times more likely to get breast cancer at 40, than she was at 30. Between the age of 40 and 50, there is another large increase in probability; the 50 year old woman is about 4 times more likely than the 40 year old to get breast cancer.

About 1% of women have a 20% lifetime risk of breast cancer

Recent studies estimate that about 1% of women in the United states have about a 20% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 84. This small segment of increased risk is based on models that primarily consider a ‘family history‘ or genetic predisposition to cancer or breast cancer. Taking the population as a whole, young women (less than 30) with a maternal history of breast cancer, or a parental history of any kind of cancer, may have a considerably increased lifetime risk of breast cancer development.

There are differences in breast cancer risk among different ethnic groups

There is some evidence to support different breast cancer risks among women from different ethnic backgrounds. The 5-year risks for breast cancer development is generally highest for white non-Hispanics and lowest for Hispanics. As women get older, the breast cancer risk becomes highest among white non-Hispanics, lowest for Hispanics, with African American non-Hispanic women somewhere in between.

Women’s Age CaucasionAfrrican AmericanAsian/Pacific IslanderHispanic
50-551.3%1 in 75    0.8%1 in 133
50-602.9%1 in 342.3%1 in 432.0%1 in 511.6%1 in 63
50-706.6%1 in 155.0%1 in 203.9%1 in 263.7%1 in 27

The risk of developing breast cancer within five years for women over 50 has been shown to vary among different ethnic groups, from as low as 0.8% for Hispanic women (1 in 133) to 1.3% among Caucasian women (1 in 75). Over 10 years the breast cancer risk for women over 50 is about 2.9% (1 in 34) for Caucasian women, and about 2.3% or 1 in 43 among African American women. During the same period the breast cancer risk among Asian and Pacific Island women is about 2.0% or 1 in 51, and only 1.6% or about 1 in 63 among Hispanics. For women during the next 20 years after 50 the estimated breast cancer risk among Caucasian women is about 1 in 15 or 6.6%, 1 in 20 or 5.0% among African American women, 3.7% or about 1 in 27 for Hispanics, and about 3.9% or 1 in 26 among Asian/Pacific Islander women.

The Lifetime risk following ‘in situ’ breast cancer is considerably higher, but still relatively low

The risk of breast cancer where there has already been treatment for ‘in situ‘ breast cancer tumors, instance DCIS, increases from between 8% to 20%. The point of all of this is to remind us that even though some overall statistics place the lifetime risk of breast cancer development at 1 in 8, that is actually quite a misleading statistic. As evident from the discussion above, the risk for developing breast cancer for a women between 50 and less than 70 can vary considerably.

For further reading, I suggest you visit this page on Lifetime risks for developing breast cancer and other risk factors.


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  10. Paap, E., Broeders, MJM., van Schoor, G., Otten, JDM., Verbeek, ALM. Large increase in a Dutch woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. European Journal of Cancer (July 2008)Volume 44, Issue 11 , Pages 1485-1487.
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  13. Kurian AW, Fish K, Shema SJ, Clarke CA. Lifetime risks of specific breast cancer subtypes among women in four racial/ethnic groups. Breast Cancer Res. (Nov. 2010) ;12(6)

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