Proactive breast cancer risk assessment in primary care: a review based on the principles of screening

Br J Cancer. 2023 May;128(9):1636-1646. doi: 10.1038/s41416-023-02145-w. Epub 2023 Feb 3.


In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women at moderate or high risk of breast cancer be offered risk-reducing medication and enhanced breast screening/surveillance. In June 2022, NICE withdrew a statement recommending assessment of risk in primary care only when women present with concerns. This shift to the proactive assessment of risk substantially changes the role of primary care, in effect paving the way for a primary care-based screening programme to identify those at moderate or high risk of breast cancer. In this article, we review the literature surrounding proactive breast cancer risk assessment within primary care against the consolidated framework for screening. We find that risk assessment for women under 50 years currently satisfies many of the standard principles for screening. Most notably, there are large numbers of women at moderate or high risk currently unidentified, risk models exist that can identify those women with reasonable accuracy, and management options offer the opportunity to reduce breast cancer incidence and mortality in that group. However, there remain a number of uncertainties and research gaps, particularly around the programme/system requirements, that need to be addressed before these benefits can be realised.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Risk Assessment