Breast cancer preventability statistics

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK.

Breast cancer incidence

In 2013, 53,339 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 second most common cause of cancer death in women in the UK. In 2013, 11,470 women died of breast cancer.

Proportion preventable

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

Lifestyle factor Increase or decrease risk? Approximate % preventable
Alcohol Increase 22
Physical activity (post-menopausal) Decrease 12
Body fatness (post-menopausal) Increase 16
Total   38

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.

Find out more about preventability estimates or, for more detailed information, download appendix A of our policy report.


The figures come from the following sources: incidence for EnglandWalesScotland and Northern Ireland; mortality for England and WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.