Statistics and Indicators

Breast cancer – incidence and mortality

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the ACT. There are several lifestyle risk factors which contribute to the incidence of breast cancer including alcohol consumption, being overweight or obese, insufficient physical activity and menopausal hormone therapy. Use of oral contraceptives and breastfeeding offer some protection against breast cancer (1). 
  • As the greatest risk factor is older age, the number of women in the ACT with breast cancer is likely to increase as the proportion of older women in our population grows.
  • In 2015 there were 269 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in ACT women. The age-standardised incidence rate for the ACT in 2015 was 135.5 cases per 100,000 women compared to 125.0 cases per 100,000 women for Australia in 2014 (2).
  • There is not a clear trend for breast cancer incidence because it has varied over time. When compared with Australia, the ACT has relatively high incidence rates for breast cancer. The reasons for this are complex, but it is well established that there is an association between socio-economic status and risk of breast cancer, with women in higher socio-economic groups being at higher risk (3).  The ACT has a high socio-economic status relative to other Australian states and territories. (4) It is thought that the reasons for these increased breast cancer rates are related to lifestyle factors (eg high alcohol consumption) and hormonal factors such as having fewer children, a higher proportion of women who have never given birth, and older age at first birth and lower rates of breastfeeding (5). 
  • In 2014 32 women who lived in the ACT at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis, died from breast cancer. The age-standardised mortality rate for the ACT in 2014 was 15.8 deaths per 100,000 women compared with 19.8 deaths per 100,000 women for Australia in 2014 (2). 
  • Five-year relative survival for breast cancer has improved over time from 78% in the period 1983–1992 to 91% for the period 2003–2012. The very welcome improvement in breast cancer relative survival reflects early diagnosis through screening mammography and improved treatment for early stage breast cancer.

1 Whiteman DC, Webb PM, Green AC, Neale RE, Fritschi L, Bain CJ, et al. Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors: introduction and overview. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2015;39(5):403-7.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books (Excel spreadsheet).

3 Cancer Australia. Report to the nation – breast cancer 2012. Surry Hills, NSW: 2012.

4 Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016 2017 [21 August 2017]. Available from:

5 National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. Breast cancer risk factors: a review of the evidence. Surry Hills, NSW: 2009.


To access the data please click on the "View source data" link at the bottom of the visualisation. This link will open up a data table that you can download.