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Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012 (second most common cancer overall). This represents about 12% of all new cancer cases and 25% of all cancers in women.

Breast cancer is hormone related, and the factors that modify the risk of this cancer when diagnosed premenopausally and when diagnosed (much more commonly) postmenopausally are not the same.

The Continuous Update Project Panel judged that for premenopausal breast cancer there was convincing evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks increases the risk of this cancer and lactation protects against it. Adult attained height and greater birth weight are probably causes of this cancer and body fatness probably protects against this cancer.

The Panel judged that for postmenopausal breast cancer there was convincing evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks, body fatness and adult attained height increase the risk of this cancer and lactation protects against it. Abdominal fatness and adult weight gain are probably causes of this cancer and physical activity probably protects against it.

Preventability estimates show that about 28% of cases of breast cancer in Brazil can be prevented by not drinking alcohol, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

The countries with the top 20 highest incidence of breast cancer in 2012 are given in the table below.

  • Belgium had the highest rate of breast cancer, followed by Denmark and France.
  • Slightly more cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in less developed countries (53%).
  • The highest incidence of breast cancer was in Northern America and Oceania; and the lowest incidence in Asia and Africa.
Rank Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World)
1 Belgium 111.9
2 Denmark 105.0
3 France (metropolitan) 104.5
4 The Netherlands 99.0
5 Bahamas 98.9
6 Iceland 96.3
7 United Kingdom 95.0
8 Barbados 94.7
9 United States of America 92.9
10 Ireland 92.3
11 French Polynesia 92.2
12 Germany 91.6
13 Italy 91.3
14 Finland 89.4
15 Luxembourg 89.1
16 New Caledonia 87.6
17 Australia 86.0
18 Malta 85.9
19 New Zealand 85.0
20 Switzerland 83.1

Source: Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C, Rebelo M, Parkin DM, Forman D, Bray, F. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on 13/12/2013.

Rate of new cases of breast cancer in Europe was double that in Africa in 2012

The highest rate was observed in Northern America - about 92 per 100,000 population for United States of America and 80 per 100,000 population for Canada.