Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Breast Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Description of the Evidence

Table 1. Risk of Breast Cancer Diagnosisa

Current Age (in Years)Risk in Next 10 YearsLifetime Risk of a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
a Adapted from Altekruse et al.[2]
301 in 2501 in 8
401 in 711 in 9
501 in 421 in 9
601 in 291 in 11
701 in 271 in 15


The incidence of breast cancer increases with a woman's age. As shown in Table 1, a 60-year-old woman has a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 10 years than does a 40-year-old woman.

The cumulative lifetime incidence decreases with advancing age because the longer a woman lives without a breast cancer diagnosis, the lower her lifetime risk compared to a younger woman who might develop breast cancer at a younger or older age. The commonly quoted risk of one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer is based on lifetime risk of a diagnosis (not death) starting from birth and does not account for the woman's current age.[2]

Breast cancer mortality increases with age. For a 40-year-old woman without a breast cancer diagnosis, the chance of dying from breast cancer within the next 10 years is extremely small, but for a woman older than 65, it is about 1%. For a woman older than 70, the risk of dying of breast cancer is even higher, but the risk of dying of any cause is higher yet.[5]

Personal history of breast cancer

Women with a personal history of invasive breast cancer, DCIS, or lobular carcinoma in situ also have an increased risk of being diagnosed with a new primary breast cancer.[6] Recommendations for subsequent mammograms vary, but evidence for various strategies is scant.

Prior radiation therapy

Women treated with thoracic radiation before the age of 30 years have a 1% annual risk of breast cancer, starting 8 years after the irradiation and for the rest of their lives.[7,8] Annual screening with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been proposed in such women, beginning 8 years after treatment or by age 25 years, whichever is later.[9] In a study of screening with mammography and MRI, 13 cancers were diagnosed among 98 asymptomatic women who received a chest radiation dose of 15 Gy or less for pediatric or adult cancer. Four of those cancers would not have been detected without the use of MRI.[10] Another study of multiple screening modalities observed a similar increase in cancer detection with the addition of MRI.[11] These data suggest that earlier detection is possible with MRI, but do not demonstrate a definitive benefit of adjunct MRI screening.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow