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Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

11 December 2017


Breast cancer is the commonest cancer among females in Hong Kong. It accounted for 26.1% of all new cancers in females diagnosed in Hong Kong in 2015. Rarely, it also occurs in males. In 2015, there were 20 new cases of breast cancer in males.


In 2015, 3900 new cases of female breast cancer were diagnosed and the crude incidence rate was 99.3 per 100000 female population. The age-standardised incidence rate was 63.8 per 100000 standard population.

Number of new cases and crude incidence rate of breast cancer in female, 1983-2000 (View)

Number of new cases and crude incidence rate of breast cancer in female, 2001-2015 (View)


Breast cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among female in Hong Kong, after lung and colorectal cancers. In 2016, a total of 702 women died from this cancer, accounting for 12.2% of all cancer deaths in females. The crude death rate of breast cancer was 17.7 per 100000 female population. The age-standardised death rate of breast cancer was 10.2 per 100000 standard population. 

Number of registered deaths and crude death rate of breast cancer in female, 1981-2000 (View)

Number of registered deaths and crude death rate of breast cancer in female, 2001-2016 (View)

Trends of incidence and mortality

The age-standardised incidence rate of female breast cancer had an upward trend between 1983 and 2015. However, the age-standardised death rate had no significant trend between 1981 and 2016.

Age-standardised incidence and death rates* of breast cancer in female, 1981-2016

Age-standardised incidence and death rates of breast cancer in female, 1981-2016



Age-standardised rates are compiled based on the world standard population specified in GPE Discussion Paper Series: No.31, EIP/GPE/EBD, World Health Organization, 2001.



Data in the above charts from 1996 onwards are compiled based on the population estimates under the "resident population" approach instead of the "extended de facto" approach. Also, the 2016 Population By-census conducted from June to August 2016 provides a benchmark for revising the population figures compiled since the 2011 Population Census. Population-related figures from 2012 to 2015 have been revised accordingly.



Classification of diseases and causes of death is based on the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) 10th Revision from 2001 onwards. Figures from 2001 onwards may not be comparable with figures for previous years which were compiled based on the ICD 9th Revision.



Census and Statistics Department
Department of Health
Hong Kong Cancer Registry, Hospital Authority

Breast cancer corresponds to codes 174-175 in ICD-9 and C50 in ICD-10.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour formed in the breast tissues. It occurs in both women and men, although breast cancer in men is rare.

Am I at risk of breast cancer?

Risk factors to breast cancer include:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Obesity after menopause
  • Advancing age
  • No childbirth, late first live birth (after age of 30) or no breastfeeding
  • Early menarche (before age of 12) or late menopause (after age of 55)
  • History of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or endometrial cancer
  • History of benign breast conditions or lobular carcinoma in situ
  • Receiving hormonal replacement therapy
  • Using combined oral contraceptives

In addition, women with the following risk factors are at increased risk of breast cancer:

  • Family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, especially with first-degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer before age of 50
  • Carrier (or family history) of certain gene (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2) mutations confirmed by genetic testing
  • History of receiving radiation therapy to the chest before age of 30

How to reduce the chance of getting breast cancer?

  • Have regular physical activities
  • Avoid alcohol drinking
  • Maintain a healthy body weight and waist circumference
  • Have childbirth at an earlier age and breastfeed each child for longer duration

What are the common symptoms of breast cancer?

The symptoms of breast cancer may not be easily noticed at an early stage.

Common symptoms include:

  • Breast lump
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • A change in skin texture of the breast or nipple
  • Rash around the nipple
  • In-drawing of the nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • New and persistent discomfort or pain in the breast or armpit
  • A new lump or thickening in the armpit

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you develop any of the above symptoms.

How can I detect breast cancer early?

Every woman should be breast aware. Women need to be familiar with the normal look, feel and cyclical changes of their breasts. If women spot any irregular change in their breasts, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.

What is breast cancer screening?

The purpose of breast cancer screening is to detect breast cancer before it gives rise to symptoms, so that early treatment can be initiated. Mammography is widely used as a screening tool and it is an X-ray examination of the breasts. In general, mammography screening is safe.

Should I get screened?

At present, there is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend for or against population-based mammography for general female in Hong Kong. All screening tests have their limitations and they are not 100% accurate. Women considering breast cancer screening should seek advice from doctors for assessment of need and obtain full information on potential benefits and risks of having the screening test for an informed choice.

Women at increased risk of breast cancer (e.g. being a carrier of certain gene mutations such as BRCA1/2, with family history of breast cancer/ovarian cancer, history of receiving radiation therapy to the chest before age of 30, etc.) should seek advice from doctors about whether they should receive breast cancer screening, starting age, suitable screening test and the frequency of screening.

Related information

Cancer Prevention Series 4 – Breast Cancer Prevention and Screening

images / 圖片      <Prevention and Screening for Breast Cancer - Information for women and their families> booklet

For further information about women's health, please visit the website of the Family Health Service of the Department of Health.


You can also call our 24-hour Health Education Hotline of the Department of Health 2833 0111 for more health information. Please click here to view the full list of health topics.