What Is Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer?

It is a stark fact that breast cancer is the most common of all cancers affecting women in South Africa today. We know the risks are high, so it is important and your responsibility to actively take whatever steps you can to reduce that risk.

Breast Cancer: Of Risks, Reality & Risk Reduction

Some risks cannot be changed:

  • Being a woman is the biggest risk factor: 1 in 35 SA women will be diagnosed with breast cancer as opposed to 1 in 1066 men
  • Your risk increases with age: In South Africa the statistics show that women from the age of 55 onwards have a higher risk of breast cancer. If you are a black South African women, however, statistics show that you may be at risk at an earlier age. Only with accurate incidence reporting in a population-based cancer registry will we be able to know the differences in our populations and tailor make our screening needs accordingly.
  • Family history of breast cancer: i.e. If there is a first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer. The age at which that person was diagnosed is also important.
  • Genetics is responsible for about 5-10% of breast cancer.
  • Personal history of breast cancer: If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer you are more likely to develop a new cancer in the other breast or in a different part of the same breast – called metastic cancer. Read more about metastic breats cancer here.
  • Radiation to chest or face before you were 30 years old. The amount of risk increase depends on how old you were when you had radiation.

Some risks can be controlled:

  • Being overweight: i.e. a BMI over 25. Fat cells makes estrogen and estrogen can make hormone receptor positive breast cancer develop and grow.
  • Pregnancy history: Earlier pregnancy seems to offer a protective effect.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: If you need to take it, try to keep the length of time you are on HRT as short as possible. Always discuss risk factors with your doctor.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Ear healthily, don’t smoke or consume alcohol – and exercise regularly.

Of Populations & Priorities

 We have already asked this urgent question: Shouldn’t South Africa be focusing on the development of a Population-Based Cancer Registry (PBCR)?

IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) is a WHO agency which describes the importance of a PBCR and its role as:

  • Describing the extent and nature of the cancer burden in the community and assist with the establishment of public health priorities.
  • Used as a source of material for etiological studies
  • Help with the monitoring of cancer and assigning the effectiveness of cancer control activities.

The National Cancer Institute‘s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program explains how a Population-Based Cancer Registry is different and wider-reaching than a Hospital-Based Cancer Registry.

“In comparison to the hospital-based cancer registry, the data collected by the population-based registry serves a wider range of purposes. Advantages of a population-based cancer registry include cancer control programs, patient care programs, administrative programs, and cancer research programs.” { Read more here.}


All the above falls into the ambit of an effective National Cancer Control Plan for South Africa – STILL outstanding since 1998!

 When will South Africa recognise that Cancer is a PRIORITY disease and that it simply cannot just be lumped with Non-Communicable Diseases?

If we do not have accurate statistics, how can we plan appropriately to prevent the untimely death of our mothers and sisters?

What do YOU think?

{ Tell us in the Comments box below, or via Twitter or Facebook! Your comments and ideas WILL make a difference. }

To get the latest campaign news, as well as inspiration and ideas, click the ‘Follow’ button at the top of the page!




Statistics: From Stagnancy to Success?

The current situation of our Breast Cancer Statistics for South Africa is that the statistics are not reflecting the truth of breast cancer in our country.

The National Cancer Registry (NCR) reflected the following: a 1-in-35 lifetime risk for South African women to develop Breast Cancer in 2007 (i.e. the last available statistics.)

  • Gender Differences: A total number of 5719 women were diagnosed, as opposed to a total of 129 men.
  • Race Ratios: Asian and White women have a higher life-time risk of 1:17 — followed by Coloured women with a life-tine risk of 1:21 — and 1:58 for Black women.
  • Age: The risk remains the highest for the age group of 40 years+.

Our urgent question is: Are these figures painting the TRUE picture of breast cancer in South Africa if we take the following into consideration?

In 1997 a total number of 4789 cases of breast cancer in females was with a life-time risk of 1:31.


Q: Is it truly possible that there can only be such a small increase in 10 years?


The answer is NO: there is a gross under-reporting of nearly 40% in the cancer registry.


Despite the promulgation of the National Cancer Act (No. 61 of 2006 – Regulations related to Cancer Registration No. R.380), South Africa is still not able to accurately determine the incidence of breast cancer. Why? Because the regulation is not being implemented.

READ MORE about the “New Regulations on Cancer Notification in South Africa” by the PHASA (Public Health Association of South Africa).

  • Death statistics are not linked with the National Cancer Registry, thus making it impossible to determine the survival rate for breast cancer in South Africa.

CRITICAL Q: Should South Africa not focus on the establishment of Population Based Cancer Registries and, additionally, one for Breast Cancer specifically?

YES! If private sector + public sector + NGOs = are willing to stand together and take hands in a spirit of CAN-do cooperation, this would make it REALITY!

National Cancer Registry ~ NCR ~ Breast Cancer Statistics in South Africa



13 MUST-KNOW Mets Facts!

Facts About Mets

The 13th of October was Metastatic Breast Cancer Day – and here are 13 facts absolutely everyone should know – and share – about breast cancer!

“13 Facts Everyone Should Know about Metastatic Breast Cancer”

Article kind courtesty of Metastatic Breast Cancer Network ~

1. No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells travel to a vital organ and that is what threatens life.

2. Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

3. An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

4. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life.

5. About 6% to 10% of people are Stage IV from their initial diagnosis.

6. Early detection does not guarantee a cure. Metastatic breast cancer can occur 5, 10 or 15 years after a person’s original diagnosis and successful treatment checkups and annual mammograms.

7. 20% to 30% of people initially diagnosed with early stage disease will develop metastatic breast cancer.

8. Young people, as well as men, can be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

9. Like early stage breast cancer, there are different types of metastatic breast cancer.

10. Treatment choices are guided by breast cancer type, location and extent of metastasis in the body, previous treatments and other factors.

11. Metastatic breast cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of their disease, some will live for many years.

12. There are no definitive prognostic statistics for metastatic breast cancer. Every patient and their disease is unique.

13. To learn more about National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13 and to access resources specifically for people living with metastatic breast cancer and their caregivers, visit www.mbcn.org.”


***Advocacy Idea: Click HERE to download a flyer you can print and distribute!***