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Are Older Women More Likely to Have Breast Cancer?

Anyone can be affected by breast cancer, but it is most likely to occur in older women. Although we all need to be aware of the signs of breast cancer, it is even more important to perform regular self-checks and attend screening as we get older because of this increasing risk.

Age and Breast Cancer Risk

Age is one of the most significant risk factors for breast cancer. Only 1 in 5 cases of breast cancer occur before the age of 45 and the risk increases as we get older. The risk is higher for women who have been through the menopause.

The chances of developing breast cancer are:

  • 1 in 68 for women between the ages of 40 and 50

  • 1 in 42 for women between the ages of 50 and 60

  • 1 in 28 for women between the ages of 60 and 70

  • 1 in 26 for women over the age of 70

However, other factors can also affect your risk of developing breast cancer. For example, women who have breastfed a baby are at slightly lower risk while those with a family history of breast cancer may be more likely to be affected. You can ask a doctor for advice on your personal risk of breast cancer if you’re worried and you should also attend breast cancer screening when your doctor recommends it.

When Should You Start Breast Cancer Screening?

Since the risk of breast cancer increases with age, breast cancer screening is normally offered on the basis of age. More than 2 million women are screened for breast cancer every year in the UK. You will usually be invited to have a mammogram every three years between the ages of 50 and 70. You can choose to continue having mammograms after 70. Your doctor may also recommend having a mammogram at a younger age if you are at higher risk of breast cancer, for example due to a family history of this condition. However, mammograms aren’t usually recommended for the under 50s because the risk of breast cancer is lower and the images aren’t as clear. Younger women usually have denser breast tissue, which makes it harder to detect problems using mammograms.

Although mammogram screening isn’t suitable for everybody, it is important for all women to be aware of the signs of breast cancer as it can develop at any age. You should check your breasts regularly for any changes such as lumps, redness, tenderness, or discharge from the nipples. If you have any concerns then you should consult a doctor. The doctor will check your breasts and may recommend further tests if there is a risk of breast cancer. You can also get advice on performing self-checks from your doctor.

Detecting breast cancer early is vital as it ensures that we have the best chances of treating it. Even though the chances of developing breast cancer increase with age, treatment can still be very effective, especially when the problem is detected early.


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