How common is breast cancer in Ireland?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Ireland, after skin cancer.

Better treatments mean that more and more people are now living long and full lives after breast cancer. However, the number of cases is rising.  

  • Every year, around 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 660 women die from the disease.
  • 1 in 10 women in Ireland will get breast cancer at some stage in their lives.
  • It is most common in women over the age of 50, but you can get it at a younger age.
  • Men can also get breast cancer but it is very rare.

What causes breast cancer? 

We don’t fully understand what causes breast cancer. However, researchers have found a number of risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of getting the disease. Some of these risks are out of your control. But knowing about them can help you to take important steps to protect yourself against the disease.

What affects my risk of getting breast cancer?


Being a woman is your biggest risk factor.

Getting older

Your risk of breast cancer increases as you get older. Most women who get breast cancer are over the age of 50. 

A strong family history of breast cancer 

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer have a higher risk of getting the disease. A strong family history includes:
  • Breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer in several close members of the same family 
  • Breast cancer in a close relative when under the age of 50.

For more information, see our Cancer and genes factsheet.

Certain benign breast conditions

If you have a history of being diagnosed with certain types of breast conditions that are benign (not cancer), you may have a slightly increased risk. If this applies to you, your doctor will explain this to you in more detail.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Women on HRT are at an increased risk of breast cancer. Your risk decreases gradually after you stop taking it. 

The Pill

The contraceptive pill causes a small increase in risk. This risk gradually returns to normal after you stop taking it.

Starting periods at an early age or having a late menopause

Women who have their first period before the age of 12 or who have the menopause after the age of 55 have a slightly increased risk.

Having no children

Women who have no children or who have their first child later in life have a slightly increased risk. 
Click here to download a PDF version of our "Breast cancer - what you should know" leaflet. For more information on breast cancer, and how we can support you, check out our dedicated breast cancer information section here.
Date Last Reviewed: 
Monday, January 7, 2019