Breast Cancer Survivors Can Have Second Cancer, Research Finds


By: Adebowale Bello, Freelance Health Writer. Medical review and editorial support provided by the Datelinehealth Africa Team

Black woman in pink top wear in support of breast cancer awareness.

Black woman in pink top wear in support of breast cancer awareness.


A newly published study in England has reported a link between surviving breast cancer and developing a second type of non-breast cancer in the future. The findings suggest the need for long term monitoring of breast cancer survivors for the development of second cancers.



TUESDAY, MAY 7 2024. The World Health Organisation identified breast cancer as the most common cancer in 157 out of 185 countries worldwide in 2022.


2.3 million women were diagnosed with the condition in that year, leading to 670,000 deaths.


Women aged 40 and above are at a higher risk of breast cancer and an estimated half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have no other specific risk factor beyond age and sex.


However, a newly published study in England has reported a link between surviving breast cancer and developing a second type of non-breast cancer in the future.


Study methods


The population-scale study assessed site specific cancer risks in 581,403 female and 3562 male breast cancer survivors diagnosed over a 25 year period (between 1995 and 2019) using the UK National Cancer Registration Dataset (NCRD).


The study population was divided into two main age groups - individuals below 50 when they were diagnosed with breast cancer and those above 50 at first diagnosis.


Study findings


Female breast cancer survivors had a 55% chance of developing breast cancer in their second breast. They also faced higher risks of other non-breast cancers; 87% for endometrial (uterine) cancer, 58% for myeloid leukemia (a type of blood and bone marrow cancer) and 25% for ovarian cancer compared to women without breast cancer history.


After their first breast cancer diagnosis, the treatment received had an impact on if a female survivor may develop a second non-breast cancer. Survivors who underwent chemotherapy were twice as likely to develop myeloid leukaemia as their counterparts who didn't.


However, women who underwent hormonal therapy were four times more likely to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer than those who didn't.


The research also found that women below 50 years diagnosed with breast cancer were five times more likely to have a second non-breast cancer than women above 50 because of the presence of cancer linked genes.


Interestingly, the study did find that male breast cancer survivors could also have second non-breast cancers. They were half as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and three times as likely to develop thyroid cancer in comparison to the general population.


The socioeconomic conditions of the participants appeared to play a huge role in a person being diagnosed with a second cancer.


Breast cancer survivors living in poor, impoverished areas were 35% more likely to have a second cancer than those who resided in wealthy environments. The higher occurrence of lifestyle choices (obesity, smoking, high alcohol intake, etc.) associated with cancer development generally is considered to be a reliable explanation for this observation.


Compared with other ethnicities, individuals of African, Asian, Chinese or other non-white and non-mixed ethnicities had a lower risk of developing a second site cancer after an initial breast cancer diagnosis.


Future directions


The study authors report that their findings suggest that breast cancer survivors may benefit from enhanced long term monitoring for specific second cancer development. They also recommend further research into how socioeconomic and ethnic factors influence the development of second cancers in breast cancer survivors.



Allen I, Hassan H et al. Risks of second primary cancers among 584,965 female and male breast cancer survivors in England: a 25-year retrospective cohort study. The Lancet Regional Health - Europe. 2024 Apr 24 (40). Accessed May 5, 2024.Available from:    



Recommended reading:

Breast cancer in Africa: What you need to know  



Published: May 7, 2024

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