Women of all ages have been found to overestimate both the incidence and the mortality rate from breast cancer and the reasons for this are unclear. A qualitative study asked eighty three women (mean age = 44 years) how likely they thought they were to get breast cancer and to explain the reasoning behind their choice. Based on their responses, women's perceptions were categorised as: no risk (5%); reasonably accurate (30%); overestimated (22%); and greatly overestimated (43%). Four main themes emerged from the reasons given: 'Don't know/guess', 'family history' of breast cancer, 'age' related reasoning, and making their decision from the information sheet read prior to answering the questions. The information currently available to women may be creating falsely high estimates of their risk of developing breast cancer as the risk factors of age and family history appear to be poorly understood. Meaningful communication of health risk in need of further improvement if it is to be useful in changing health related knowledge and behaviours.