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Breast cancer mortality statistics

Mortality statistics for breast cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by geography and socio-economic variation. The ICD code for breast cancer is ICD-10 C50. Due to the small numbers of men diagnosed each year with breast cancer most of the information on this page refers to females.

The latest mortality statistics available for breast cancer in the UK are 2011. Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

 

By country in the UK

Breast cancer is the 3rd most common cause of cancer death in the UK (2011), accounting for 7% of all deaths from cancer, despite the fact that it is rare in men. It is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK (2011), accounting for 15% of female deaths from cancer.1-3 Breast cancer was the most common cause of death from cancer in women until 1998; since then there have been more deaths from lung cancer in women.

In 2011, there were 11,762 deaths from breast cancer in the UK (Table 2.1): 11,684 (99%) in women and 78 (less than 1%) in men, giving a female:male ratio of around 150:1.1-3 The crude mortality rate shows that there were around 36 breast cancer deaths for every 100,000 females in the UK and less than 1 for every 100,000 males.

The European age-standardised mortality rates (AS rates) of breast cancer do not differ significantly between the constituent countries of the UK for either sex, and have not done since 2003 (Table 2.1).1-3

Table 2.1: Breast Cancer (C50), Number of Deaths, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2011

England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland UK
Male Deaths 64 5 5 4 78
Crude Rate 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.3
AS Rate 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.2
AS Rate - 95% LCL 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.8 0.2
Female Deaths 9,702 1,036 608 338 11,684
Crude Rate 36.0 38.3 39.0 36.5 36.3
AS Rate 24.4 25.9 24.7 27.2 24.6
AS Rate - 95% LCL 23.9 24.3 22.7 24.3 24.1
AS Rate - 95% UCL 24.8 27.4 26.6 30.1 25.0

Download this table XLS (33KB) PPT (151KB) PDF (21KB)

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS rate

The latest analysis of breast cancer mortality rates throughout the UK reports little geographical variation.4,5

section reviewed 31/01/14
section updated 31/01/14

 

By age (females)

Female breast cancer mortality is strongly related to age, with the highest mortality rates being in older women. In the UK between 2009 and 2011, an average of 46% of breast cancer deaths were in women aged 75 years and over, and three-quarters were in the 60s and over (Figure 2.1).1-3

Age-specific mortality rates from female breast cancer rise steadily from ages 30 to 70-74; the rates then increase more sharply above this age group, with the highest rates in those aged 85+ (Figure 2.1).1-3

Figure 2.1: Breast Cancer (C50), Average Number of Deaths per Year and Age-Specific Mortality Rates, Females, UK, 2009-2011

deaths_crude_f_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (53KB) PPT (134KB) PDF (308KB)

More than a third (34%) of female breast cancer deaths are in those in the 50-69 age group (Figure 2.1);1-3 currently women in this age group and those aged 70 are invited for screening every three years in the UK through the NHS Breast Screening Programme.6 In England a trial is taking place to look at the possible benefits of extending breast screening so that women aged 47 to 50 and 70 to 73 are also invited. 

Although few breast cancer deaths occur in women in their teens or 20s, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in women aged 15-49, with around 1,200 women in this age group dying of breast cancer each year. 

section reviewed 31/01/14
section updated 31/01/14

 

Trends over time (females)

Female breast cancer mortality rates have decreased overall in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 2.2).1-3 European AS mortality rates decreased by 34% between 1971-1973 and 2009-2011, though this includes a steady increase from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s, and a decrease since then. European AS mortality rates were 40% lower in 2009-2011 than in 1984-1986 when rates peaked. Over the last decade (between 2000-2002 and 2009-2011), the European AS mortality rates have decreased by 19%. There are likely to be several reasons for the decline, including improved detection through screening, increasing specialisation of care,7 and better access to more effective treatments (such as improved surgical techniques, targeted use of radiotherapy and use of adjuvant therapies including the widespread adoption of tamoxifen.8

Figure 2.2: Breast Cancer (C50), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, Females, UK, 1971-2011

mort_asr_uk_f_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (47KB) PPT (134KB) PDF (42KB)

Breast cancer mortality rates have decreased overall for all of the broad age groups in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 2.3).1-3 The largest decreases have been in people aged between 15 and 39, with European AS mortality rates decreasing by nearly 55% between 1971-1973 and 2009-2011. For women over 50, there was an increase between the 1970s and mid-to-late 1980s, which has since been followed by the decrease. Between 1989-1991 and 2009-2011, there has been a 45% decrease in mortality rates for women aged 50-64 (the age group for screening when the programmes began), 42% decrease for women aged 65-69 and 27% decrease for women aged 70+. The rates for younger age groups have gradually decreased since the 1970s. The lower mortality decreases in the older age groups may be explained in part because women aged over 70 are not currently eligible for screening, and some studies have shown that women over 70 are less likely than younger women to receive surgery9,10 or radiotherapy11 for their breast cancer, which may explain the relatively slow change in mortality rates over time for this age group. 

Figure 2.3: Breast Cancer (C50), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, Females, By Age, UK, 1971-2011

mort_asr_age_f_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (59KB) PPT (134KB) PDF (44KB)

section reviewed 31/01/14
section updated 31/01/14

 

In Europe and worldwide (females)

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Europe for females, and the third most common cause of cancer death overall, with more than 131,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2012 (17% of female deaths and 7% of the total). In Europe (2012), the highest World age-standardised mortality rates for breast cancer are in Macedonia; the lowest rates are in Estonia. UK breast cancer mortality rates are estimated to be the 14th highest in Europe.20 These data are broadly in line with Europe-specific data available elsewhere.21

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death worldwide for females, and the fifth most common cancer overall, with around 522,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2012 (15% of female deaths and 6% of the total). Breast cancer mortality rates are highest in Western Africa and lowest in Eastern Asia, but this partly reflects varying data quality worldwide.20

Use our interactive map to explore the data for breast cancer.

section reviewed 29/05/14
section updated 29/05/14

 

By socio-economic variation (females)

There is evidence for a small association between female breast cancer mortality and deprivation in England.14 England-wide data for 2007-2011 show European age-standardised mortality rates are 6% higher for females living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived (Figure 2.4).14

Figure 2.4: Breast Cancer (C50), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates by Deprivation Quintile, Females, England, 2007-2011

dep_mort_bar_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (44KB) PPT (125KB) PDF (40KB)

The estimated gap in breast cancer mortality between females living in the most and least deprived areas in England has not changed in the period 2002-2011. It has been estimated that there would have been around 350 fewer female breast cancer deaths each year in England during 2007-2011 if all females experienced the same mortality rates as the least deprived.14

Associations with deprivation have also been investigated for incidence.

section reviewed 29/05/14
section updated 29/05/14

 

Breast cancer mortality in males

In 2011, 78 men died from breast cancer (Table 2.1). Breast cancer accounts for less than 0.1% of cancer deaths in men.

Breast cancer mortality in males is strongly related to age. In the UK between 2009 and 2011, an average of around 52% of male breast cancer deaths were in men aged 75 and over, and three-quarters (75%) were in the 65s and over (Figure 2.5).1-3

Figure 2.5: Breast Cancer (C50) Average Number of Deaths per Year and Age-Specific Mortality Rates, Males, UK, 2009-2011

deaths_crude_m_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (52KB) PPT (133KB) PDF (293KB)

Breast cancer mortality rates for men have been consistently very low since the 1970s, fluctuating around 0.3-0.4 per 100,000 men between the 1970s and the early 1990s and then slightly falling to around 0.2 per 100,000 men since then (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6: Breast Cancer (C50), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, Males, UK, 1971-2011

mort_asr_uk_m_breast.swf

Download this chart XLS (53KB) PPT (139KB) PDF (42KB)

section reviewed 31/01/14
section updated 31/01/14

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References for breast cancer mortality

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, March 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/all-releases.html?definition=tcm%3A77-27475.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, March 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/general/ref-tables/index.html.
  3. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, May 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.nisra.gov.uk/demography/default.asp22.htm.
  4. NCIN. Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
  5. NCIN. Cancer e-Atlas. European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK (England: former Primary Care Trusts; Wales; Scotland: NHS Health Boards; Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care Trusts), 2009-2011.
  6. UK National Screening Committee. UK Screening Portal: Breast screening across the UK. Accessed October 2012.
  7. Kingsmore D, Ssemwogerere A, Hole D, et al. Specialisation and breast cancer survival in the screening era Br J Cancer 2003 Jun 2;88(11):1708-12.
  8. Autier P, Boniol M, La Vecchia C, et al. Disparities in breast cancer mortality trends between 30 European countries: retrospective trend analysis of WHO mortality database BMJ 2010;341
  9. Stapelkamp C, Holmberg L, Tataru D, et al. Predictors of early death in female patients with breast cancer in the UK: a cohort study BMJ Open 2011;1(2)
  10. National Cancer Intelligence Network. The second all breast cancer report [PDF]. 2011
  11. Lavelle K, Todd C, Moran A, et al. Non-standard management of breast cancer increases with age in the UK: a population based cohort of women > or =65 years Br J Cancer. 2007 Apr 23;96(8):1197-203.
  12. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from http://globocan.iarc.fr. Accessed May 2011.
  13. European Age-Standardised rates calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2011 using data from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, IARC, version 1.2. http://globocan.iarc.fr
  14. Cancer Research UK and National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer by deprivation in England: Incidence, 1996-2010, Mortality, 1997-2011. London: NCIN; 2014.
  15. Scottish Public Health Observatory, UK. Cancer of the female breast (ICD-10 C50). Scotland: age-standardised incidence and mortality rates (EASRs), by SIMD 2006 deprivation quintile Accessed January 2012.
  16. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, UK. Survival of cancer patients in Northern Ireland: 1993-2004 (PDF) Chapter 16: Breast cancer (Females only) (C50). Accessed December 2011.
  17. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) Cancer Incidence by Deprivation: England, 1995-2004 2008
  18. Rachet B, Ellis L, Maringe C, et al. Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England after the NHS cancer plan. Brit J Cancer 2010;103(4):446-53.
  19. Shack LG, Rachet B, Brewster DH, et al. Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in Scotland 1986–2000. Brit J Cancer 2007;97(7):999-1004.
  20. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. 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 December 2013.
  21. Ferlay J, Steliarova-Foucher E, Lortet-Tieulent J, et al.Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries in 2012. European Journal of Cancer (2013) 49, 1374-1403.
Updated: 29 May 2014