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BACKGROUND: Benign breast disease (BBD) increases the risk of breast cancer, but details of the relationship would benefit from further study in the UK. METHODS: Analysis of linked statistical abstracts of hospital data, including a cohort of 20 976 women with BBD in an Oxford data set and 89 268 such women in an English national data set. RESULTS: Rate ratios (RRs) for breast cancer, comparing BBD and comparison cohorts in these two data sets, were 2.3 (95% CI: 2.2-2.5) and 3.2 (3.0-3.3), respectively. RRs rose with increasing age at BBD diagnosis and remained elevated for at least 20 years after diagnosis. RRs were particularly high for a relatively small number of cancers occurring in the first few months after BBD diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings accord well with those in other large studies, mostly done in the USA, in showing a sustained long-term cancer risk after BBD. They also demonstrate that known long-term risks of disease can be reliably identified from linked routine administrative hospital statistics. Most other studies omit cancers in the first few months after BBD. Such cases-presumably either misdiagnosed or miscoded-merit further study to determine whether in fact they include diagnoses of cancer that were initially missed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Public Health (Oxf)

Publication Date





565 - 571


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Breast Diseases, Breast Neoplasms, Cohort Studies, England, Female, Hospitals, Humans, Medical Record Linkage, Middle Aged, Young Adult