Breast cancer in Canada

Breast cancer develops in the cells of the breast tissue. When these cells change or no longer behave normally, they may lead to benign tumours (non-cancerous). In some cases, the changes may cause malignant breast tumours (cancerous).

The data

  • Breast cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in Canada
  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
  • About 26,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017
  • Breast cancer is the #1 cancer in women
  • 83% occur in women aged 50+

Risk factors

  • Age
  • Family history
  • BRCA gene mutation
  • Reproductive status (e.g. late menopause)
  • Hormone exposures (e.g. estrogen)
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity

Screening and detection

  • 70% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed early in their development, at stage I and II*
  • 87% of Canadian women diagnosed with breast cancer survive 5 or more years


Routine breast cancer screening with mammography every 2 to 3 years is recommended for women aged 50 to 74.

Screening guidelines are available from the Canadian task Force on Preventive Health Care.

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Organization: Public Health Agency of Canada

Date published: June, 2017

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Data Sources: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017; Statistics Canada, Canadian Cancer Registry CANSIM Table 103-0554; Canadian Partnership Against Cancer - 2017 Cancer System Performance Report.

* Cancer stage distribution is based on eight provinces and does not include Quebec or Ontario.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Health, 2017 | Cat.: HP35-83/1-2017E-PDF | ISBN: 978-0-660-08545-6 | Pub.: 170068       

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