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Breast Cancer

  • One in 8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • More than 180,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer. 
  • Breast cancer kills approximately 41,000 women in the United States each year.
  • Breast cancer is not one of the leading causes of death in women in general, but it is the leading cause of death in American women ages 40-55.
  • The incidence of breast cancer has more than doubled in the past 30 years. In 1964, the lifetime risk was 1 in 20; today it is 1 in 8.
  • The most important risk factor for breast cancer is being female.
  • The next most important risk factor for breast cancer is age. Breast cancer risk increases directly with age.
Survival Rates
  • 97% of women diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer this year will be effectively cured.
  • 80% of all women diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis; at least 60 percent will survive ten years after diagnosis.
  • More than 2.6 million women in the United States are breast cancer survivors.
Risk Factors
  • Other risk factors for breast cancer include: 
    • Being female
    • Aging (breast cancer risk increases directly with age)
    • Having had breast cancer previously
    • Having a close family member (mother, sister, daughter) or 2 other relatives with breast cancer
    • Having the "breast cancer genes", BRCA1 or BRCA2
    • Having your first period before age 12
    • Having your first pregnancy after age 30
    • Having no children
    • High dietary fat intake
    • Being obese
    • Having 2 or more alcoholic drinks per day
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Smoking
  • 7 out of 10 breast cancers occur in women with no other risk factors than being female.
  • Fewer than 40 percent of all diagnosed cases of breast cancer are associated with heredity and reproductive history.
  • Racial Disparities
    • Overall, caucasian women have the highest rate of developing breast cancer in the nation.
    • African-American women are more likely to die from the disease than caucasian women are.
    • Asian-American women have the lowest rate of breast cancer than any other racial or demographic group in the country.
    Breast Cancer Screening and Detection
    • The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 20 and older perform monthly breast self-examinations and receive a physical examination every three years, and that women age 40 and older should receive an annual mammogram and physical examination.
    • Although mammography is the single most effective method of screening, it fails to detect as many as 20 percent of breast cancer cases in women over age 50, and as many as 40 percent in younger women. Other diagnostic tests such as ultrasound, dutal lavage, cystic aspiration, MRI, and biopsies are important technologies and, while not indicated in all women, are very useful in selected situations.
    • In one study, 94% of women whose physicians recommended mammograms had obtained one in the last 2 years, whereas only 36% of those whose physicians had not made the recommendation had done so.
    • Women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women (55% vs. 65% for women ages 40-49), even though breast cancer risk increases with age.
    • In the US, Hispanic women have fewer mammograms (58%) than Caucasian women (68%) and African American women (68%).
    • Women below poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the past 2 years (44% vs. 65%).
    • Mammography use increased between 1989-1997 for all groups except American Indians and Alaska Natives. 
    • Only 5 states do not mandate insurance coverage of mammograms.  They are Hawaii, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. 

    Click here for related information.

    (Sources: American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts Figures: 1997-1998; 1997. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Promotion Guide, 2000).

    Created: 10/25/2000  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
    Reviewed: 12/19/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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