1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer.
One in eight women will now develop breast cancer as rates have risen over the past decade, according to new figures. The number of middle-aged women contracting the disease has increased particularly sharply, with lifestyle factors partly to blame.
British women are drinking and eating more than before, and exercising less, as well as having babies later in life which also adds to risk.
However early diagnosis and survival rates are improving, with two-thirds of breast cancer sufferers now surviving 20 years or more.
The new figures were published on Friday by Cancer Research UK to coincide with World Cancer Day.
Sara Hiom, the leading charity’s director of health information, said: “Women cannot change their genes but small changes in everyday habits can help to reduce cancer risk.
“Cutting back on alcohol by keeping within government recommended limits of no more than 14 units a week (a small drink a day) helps.
“Taking more exercise and eating a diet high in fibre but low in saturated fat can help maintain a healthy weight – which in turn reduces breast cancer risk.
“Women should also discuss hormone replacement therapy with their doctor as long-term use can raise breast cancer risk.
“Mammograms will pick up breast cancers early on before they can be felt as a lump or spotted through other visible changes and we know that the earlier a cancer is detected the more successful treatment is likely to be so women can benefit by taking up invitations to breast screening.”
The data, obtained from the Office for National Statistics, show that in 1999 there were 42,400 women diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain.
By 2008 that figure had risen by 3.5 per cent to reach 47,700, meaning that the lifetime risk has risen from one in nine women to one in eight.
The biggest rise in cases – more than 6 per cent – was among women aged between 50 and 69, while rates dropped slightly among younger generations.
Almost half of those who develop breast tumours are middle-aged, while a third are pensioners and just one in five aged between 25 and 49.
Cancer Research said there is “good news” on survival thanks to improved technology, with three-quarters of women living for at least 10 years after being diagnosis with breast cancer.
Around 1.5million women are screened for breast cancer in Britain every year and screening every three years will soon be extended to those aged between 47 and 73.
Dr Rachel Greig, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “These figures are a wake up call and should not be ignored. More women are developing breast cancer and, although survival is improving thanks to breakthroughs in breast awareness, screening and treatment, we clearly have much further to go.
“Some risk factors, such as getting older, cannot be changed but the good news is that others can. By drinking less, maintaining a healthy weight and getting physically active, women can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.”
Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “These figures confirm what Macmillan professionals are seeing on the ground, that breast cancer is continuing to increase.
“There is some good news in that earlier diagnosis and better treatments mean that more women are surviving their cancer.
“In fact, there are now almost 550,000 women living with a breast cancer diagnosis in the UK.
“Therefore it is vitally important that resources are better used to ensure women get the care and support they need to have a good quality of life after treatment.”