Risk levels

Risk levels in women

There are three main levels that are used to describe a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. These are used in England and Wales. Definitions in Scotland and Northern Ireland may differ.

Population risk
(or near to population risk)
If you’re in this group, your chances of developing breast cancer are about the same as the average woman.

Women in this group have a less than 17% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.

Or put another way, for every 100 women in this group, up to 17 will develop breast cancer.

Women in this category are not eligible for genetic testing.

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Moderate risk
If you’re in this group, you have a higher chance of developing breast cancer than the average woman.

Women in this group have at least a 17% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime, but less than a 30% chance.

Or put another way, for every 100 women in this group, somewhere between about 17 and 30 will develop breast cancer.

Women in this category are not usually eligible for genetic testing.

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High risk
If you’re in this group, you have a much higher chance of developing breast cancer
than the average woman.

Women in this group have a 30% or greater chance of developing breast cancer, and it can be as high as 85%.

Or put another way, for every 100 women in this group, somewhere between about 30 and 85 will develop breast cancer.

Women in this category are often eligible for genetic testing, but this will depend on the estimated chance of them carrying faulty breast cancer genes.

This group includes known BRCA1, BRCA2 and TP53 mutations and rare conditions that carry an increased risk of breast cancer such as Peutz-Jegher syndrome (STK11), Cowden (PTEN) and familial diffuse gastric cancer (E-Cadherin).

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Risk levels in men

There are no set risk categories for men, and the categories used for women don’t apply. Men with the highest risk of developing breast cancer still have a lower risk than the average woman in the UK.

Your specialist will still be able to estimate your chances of carrying faulty genes, and this can be used to determine whether you are eligible for genetic testing, which you can then choose to have if you like. In some cases, genetic testing can confirm whether or not you have a faulty breast cancer gene.

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