Perceived Risks Of Breast Cancer Are Vastly Overestimated

November 06, 1998

(Putting the risk of breast cancer in perspective)

Recently notices on London's underground warned that women have a one in 12 risk of developing breast cancer. That's only part of the story, say the authors of a paper in this week's BMJ. Dr John Bunker for the Cancer Research Campaign and UCL Trials Centre estimates that in fact the risk of developing breast cancer in a woman under the age of 35 years is one in 625. By the age of 50 this risk rises to one in 56; to one in 18 by the age of 65; and one in 13 by the age of 75 years. The authors conclude that overall, for most women, the lifetime risk of dying of breast cancer is one in 26. This risk should be understood in the context of other serious threats to life. For women who smoke and live to age 75, for instance, the risk of dying of lung cancer is three times as great as dying of breast cancer.

Contact:

Dr John Bunker, Visiting Professor, Cancer Research Campaign and UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London Medical School, London
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BMJ

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