Review of non-clinical risk models to aid prevention of breast cancer

Kawthar Al-Ajmi, Artitaya Lophatananon, Martin Yuille, William Ollier, Kenneth R Muir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A disease risk model is a statistical method which assesses the probability that an individual will develop one or more diseases within a stated period of time. Such models take into account the presence or absence of specific epidemiological risk factors associated with the disease and thereby potentially identify individuals at higher risk. Such models are currently used clinically to identify people at higher risk, including identifying women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. Many genetic and non-genetic breast cancer risk models have been developed previously. We have evaluated existing non-genetic/non-clinical models for breast cancer that incorporate modifiable risk factors. This review focuses on risk models that can be used by women themselves in the community in the absence of clinical risk factors characterization. The inclusion of modifiable factors in these models means that they can be used to improve primary prevention and health education pertinent for breast cancer. Literature searches were conducted using PubMed, ScienceDirect and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Fourteen studies were eligible for review with sample sizes ranging from 654 to 248,407 participants. All models reviewed had acceptable calibration measures, with expected/observed (E/O) ratios ranging from 0.79 to 1.17. However, discrimination measures were variable across studies with concordance statistics (C-statistics) ranging from 0.56 to 0.89. We conclude that breast cancer risk models that include modifiable risk factors have been well calibrated but have less ability to discriminate. The latter may be a consequence of the omission of some significant risk factors in the models or from applying models to studies with limited sample sizes. More importantly, external validation is missing for most of the models. Generalization across models is also problematic as some variables may not be considered applicable to some populations and each model performance is conditioned by particular population characteristics. In conclusion, it is clear that there is still a need to develop a more reliable model for estimating breast cancer risk which has a good calibration, ability to accurately discriminate high risk and with better generalizability across populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-986
Number of pages20
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Structured keywords

  • ICEP


  • Breast Neoplasms/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Risk Factors


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