Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in England. In 2008 there were 39,681 new cases diagnosed, an increase of 1,633 cases compared to 2007 (4 per cent). There were 124 new cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women compared to 120 cases per 100,000 women in the previous year. Breast cancer accounted for 31% of all cancers in women in 2008.
Just over 10,000 women died from breast cancer in England in 2008, a rate of 26 deaths per 100,000 women. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
Age is one of the known risk factors for developing breast cancer. Four out of every five new cases are diagnosed in women aged 50 and over, with cases peaking in the 60 to 64 age group (14 per cent of all new cases).
The breast screening programme was introduced in 1988 with the aim of reducing the number of women dying from breast cancer. Some 5.1 million women aged 53-70 were eligible for breast cancer screening in 2007-08. Of these, 3.9 million (76 per cent) were screened.1
In 2008, 7,670 women were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50 and would therefore not have been eligible for screening.
Earlier detection and improved treatment for breast cancer have meant that survival rates have risen. Although incidence rates for breast cancer increased by more than 85 per cent between 1971 and 2008, mortality rates have fallen by 33 per cent since 1971. Survival from breast cancer is higher than that for cervical cancer and much higher than that of other major cancers in women - lung, colorectal and ovarian.
Breast cancer has the second highest five-year survival rate for women aged 15-99 years, in England, after melanoma skin cancer. Five-year survival was 83 per cent for women in England diagnosed in 2003-07 and followed up to the end of 2008. This compares with 82 per cent for women diagnosed in 2001-06 and followed up to the end of 2007.
1 NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme.
Source: Office for National Statistics
Female breast cancer is coded to 174 in the International Classification of Diseases Eighth and Ninth Revisions (ICD-8 & 9) and C50 in the Tenth Revision (ICD-10).
All rates are directly age-standardised using the European standard population.
The five-year relative survival rates are for adults (ages 15-99) and have been age standardised to control for changes in the age profile of cancer patients over time. This enables figures for different time periods to be compared.
Figures presented for years prior to 2008 are based on rates reported in the most recent Annual Reference Volume (Cancer Statistics - Registrations, England 2007, Series MB1 no 38) and represent registrations received at ONS by September 2009. Figures for 2008 are based on registrations at ONS received by September 2010 and are currently reported in the First Release (Cancer Registrations in England 2008.)
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