Prevention and Breast Health

There are more than twice as many new breast cancer cases annually than new cases of cancer in any other site.

Studies from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have shown that a third of all breast cancer cases can be prevented in Europe by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That would mean that 192,00 of the 576,300 new cases of breast cancer each year in the WHO Europe region could be prevented.

The increasing number of breast cancer cases may be due to changes in lifestyle habits, increase in sedentary lifestyle, weight gain and obesity and sociological changes, such as increasing age at first birth and decreasing number of children born to women. It may also be due to better early detection.

There is accumulating evidence that healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of breast cancer.

European Code Against Cancer

In European populations, people who follow a healthy lifestyle that adheres to the recommendations for cancer prevention have an estimated 18% lower risk of cancer compared with people whose lifestyle and body weight do not meet the recommendations.

This risk reduction was estimated for a healthy lifestyle that includes: maintaining a normal body weight (a body mass index [BMI] between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2) and avoiding foods that promote weight gain, such as sugary drinks and fast foods; being moderately active for at least 30 minutes per day; breastfeeding (for women); eating mostly foods of plant origin; limiting intake of red meat; avoiding processed meats; and limiting consumption of alcoholic drinks.

is also tackling the preventable causes of cancer by addressing key risk factors. For more on these initiatives, see the Public Affairs and Advocacy Section.


  • Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.
  • European Code Against Cancer.
  • Ferlay J, Ervik M, Lam F, Colombet M, Mery L, Piñeros M, Znaor A, Soerjomataram I, Bray F (2020). Global Cancer Observatory: Cancer Today. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer. Statistics for Europe are based on WHO Europe region of 53 countries. Data for Andorra, Monaco and San Marino are not included. World Health Organization.
  • Stewart BW, Wild CP, editors. World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • World Cancer Research Fund International NOURISHING and MOVING databases