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Ethnicity and risk

In the UK, the number of cases of diagnosed breast cancer among women of different ethnic backgrounds varies. For example, the incidence of breast cancer is highest among white women, followed by black women, Asian women, women of mixed race and then Chinese women. 

A woman’s ethnic background may therefore affect her risk of developing breast cancer. The difference in incidence of breast cancer across different ethnic groups may be due to genetic factors, although more research is needed to determine how much this plays a part. The difference could also be due to different cultures and lifestyle risk factors such as the age women have their first child and the number of children they have.

There are also differences among ethnic groups in terms of the age at which breast cancer is diagnosed. A local study carried out among patients with breast cancer in Hackney in 2008 found that black women are diagnosed at a younger age than white patients (21 years earlier on average). The findings of the study also suggested that tumours in the younger black patients were more likely to be aggressive, and a higher proportion of tumours were basal-like - meaning they were less likely to respond to newer types of targeted breast cancer treatments.

Checking your breasts regularly increases the chances of finding any changes early. Most breast changes, including lumps, aren’t cancer, but it’s important to get them checked out by your GP. And even if it is cancer, nine out of 10 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage survive.

For more information about the risk of breast cancer, please visit Breakthrough Breast Cancer's website.

Sources: Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Cancer Research UK.