Breast cancer statistics

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide

Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women and the second most common cancer overall. There were over 2 million new cases in 2018. The top 25 countries with the highest rates of breast cancer in 2018 are given in the table below.

The Continuous Update Project Panel judged that there was strong evidence that consumption of alcoholic drinks, greater birthweight and adult attained height are causes of premenopausal breast cancer. The panel also judged that there is strong evidence that vigorous physical activity and greater body fatness protect against premenopausal breast cancer (more information about this unusual finding on greater body fatness can be found in Appendix 2 of Body fatness and weight gain (PDF)).

The Panel judged that there was strong evidence that consumption of alcoholic drinks, greater body fatness throughout adulthood, adult weight gain and adult attained height are causes of postmenopausal breast cancer. The Panel also judged there is strong evidence that physical activity (including vigorous physical activity) and greater body fatness in young adulthood protect against postmenopausal breast cancer (more information about this unusual finding on greater body fatness in young adulthood can be found in Appendix 2 of Body fatness and weight gain (PDF)).

In addition, the Panel judged there was strong evidence that lactation protects against breast cancer (unspecified menopausal status).

> Read about all the evidence in our Third Expert Report.

We also fund research on breast cancer through our regular grant programme. Read the findings here.

Age-standardised rates are used in the tables. This is a summary measure of the rate of disease that a population would have if it had a standard age structure. Standardisation is necessary when comparing populations that differ with respect to age because age has a powerful influence on the risk of dying from cancer.

Breast cancer rates

Belgium had the highest rate of breast cancer in women, followed by Luxembourg.

RankCountryAge-standardised rate per 100,000
1Belgium113.2
2Luxembourg109.3
3Netherlands105.9
4France (metropolitan)99.1
5New Caledonia (France)98.0
6Lebanon97.6
7Australia94.5
8UK93.6
9Italy92.8
10New Zealand92.6
11Ireland90.3
12Sweden89.8
13Finland89.5
14Denmark88.8
15Switzerland88.1
16Montenegro87.8
17Malta87.6
18Norway87.5
19Hungary85.5
20Germany85.4
21Iceland85.2
22US84.9
23Canada83.8
24Cyprus81.7
25Samoa80.1
The data quoted on these webpages come from the Global Cancer Observatory, owned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and are used with permission. The incidence statistics for 2018 are projections calculated from cancer registry data collected before 2018. Full information on the methods used by IARC is available here.
Source: Bray F, Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Siegel RL, Torre LA, Jemal A. Global Cancer Statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin, in press. The online GLOBOCAN 2018 database is accessible at http://gco.iarc.fr/, as part of IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory.