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Eight Australians every day - do you know the risk factors?

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Eight Australians every day - do you know the risk factors?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and projections estimate that this year in Australia alone 19,371 women and 164 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, with the number of diagnoses increasing each year.

The good news is that number of deaths from breast cancer is declining, with Australia having one of the best breast cancer survival rates in the world. These survival rates can be attributed to early screening and diagnosis, public awareness, and improved treatments and therapies.

Despite this, breast cancer still accounts for 14 percent of all cancer deaths in Australian women and is the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer. Approximately 3090 Australians will die from breast cancer in 2019—an average of eight people every day—showing we still have a long way to go.[1]

In 2018, Cancer Australia published Risk Factors for breast cancer: a review of the evidence, collating and evaluating the literature to categorise risk factors associated with breast cancer and give an evidence based insight into how best to identify at-risk women who may benefit most from tailored surveillance.

In this, a large range of exposures—behavioural factors, occupational factors, environmental factors, infectious agents, genetic predispositions, medical conditions and treatments, and reproductive and hormonal factors were identified as contributors to increased risk.[2] Unsurprisingly, the single biggest factor for developing breast cancer is being a woman, with other general factors including age, breast density, and even height.[3]

Non-environmental risk factors to take into consideration when initiating surveillance also include family history of breast, ovarian and other cancers, genetic mutations and abnormalities (the best known of these being BRCA1or BRCA2), as well as hormonal factors and indicators. By and far, this list is not exhaustive.

Of course, there are also lifestyle factors which can increase risk including being overweight or obese, drinking alcohol, and smoking. Some of the most significant ways to reduce risk factors therefore include maintaining a healthy lifestyle through being active, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating for good health, low alcohol intake, and by reducing or quitting smoking. Breastfeeding during reproduction is also associated with lower breast cancer risk, and menopausal women should consider alternatives to or minimising HRT. [4]

Whilst being aware of risk factors obviously plays an important role in breast cancer awareness, it is of course no substitute for screening, regular breast checks, and vigilance. It is important that women of all ages understand the importance of finding and treating breast cancer early, as early detection plays a significant role in increased survival, greater treatment options, and improved quality of life.[5]

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month where women of all ages, regardless of risk are encouraged to make the decision to be breast aware.

At Mater we are proud to have exceptional breast cancer services, surgeons and cancer experts all dedicated to making a difference. Visit to refer.

8 people every day is too many.


[1] Breast Cancer Network Australia,11 January 2019 Current breast cancer statistics in Australia

[2] Cancer Australia, 2018. Risk factors for breast cancer: A review of the evidence, Cancer Australia, Surry Hills, NSW

[3] Breast Cancer Network Australia, Risk Factors

[4] Breast Cancer Network Australia, Reducing your risk

[5] Cancer Australia, Early detection of breast cancer



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