Breast cancer: key points

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Scotland accounting for 29.1% of all cancers diagnosed, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.
  • Risk of breast cancer increases substantially with age and it is largely determined by lifetime exposure to oestrogens.
  • Many of the known risk factors for breast cancer relate to a woman's reproductive history, e.g. early menarche, late first pregnancy, low parity, not breastfeeding and late menopause.
  • There were 4,738 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in 2015 in women in Scotland and incidence is increasing over time.
  • Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women in Scotland. However, mortality has decreased since the late 1980s. The mortality rate has decreased by 21.0% over the last ten years.
  • One in eight women in Scotland will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer survival has improved substantially over recent years, with 88% of women in Scotland now surviving at least 5 years after their breast cancer diagnosis.
  • Breast cancer is more common in affluent areas, but for women diagnosed with breast cancer survival is lower in more deprived areas.
  • Breast cancer incidence and mortality is higher in the UK and other western countries than in the rest of the world.


Key statistics (females only):

Number of cases diagnosed in 2015 4,738
Prevalence at 31 Dec 2015 (cases / 100,000 female pop)1 1,771.7
Number of deaths in 2015 989
% women surviving 5 years after diagnosis2 88.0%
Lifetime risk of developing breast cancer (from birth) 11.9%
Lifetime risk of developing breast cancer (from age 54) 10.0%

1) Number of female breast cancer survivors at 31 Dec 2015 who had been diagnosed in the previous 20 years per 100,000 female population.

2) 5 year relative survival for patients diagnosed during the period 2007-2011 (not standardised).


Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in September 2017
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end June 2018.