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).

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).

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.

Rank Country Age-standardised rate per 100,000
1 Belgium 113.2
2 Luxembourg 109.3
3 Netherlands 105.9
4 France (metropolitan) 99.1
5 New Caledonia (France) 98.0
6 Lebanon 97.6
7 Australia 94.5
8 UK 93.6
9 Italy 92.8
10 New Zealand 92.6
11 Ireland 90.3
12 Sweden 89.8
13 Finland 89.5
14 Denmark 88.8
15 Switzerland 88.1
16 Montenegro 87.8
17 Malta 87.6
18 Norway 87.5
19 Hungary 85.5
20 Germany 85.4
21 Iceland 85.2
22 US 84.9
23 Canada 83.8
24 Cyprus 81.7
25 Samoa 80.1