About 12% of women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Each year in the United States, about 207,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and about 54,000 women are diagnosed with pre-invasive breast cancer. (Although breast cancer in men is rare, about 2,000 American men are diagnosed each year with invasive breast cancer.)
About 40,000 American women die from breast cancer each year. Breast cancer death rates have declined significantly since the 1990s, especially for women younger than age 50. The earlier that breast cancer is diagnosed, the earlier the opportunity for treatment. In the United States, there are currently more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
Most cases of breast cancer occur in women older than age 60. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 cases of invasive breast cancer are found in women younger than age 45, while 2 in 3 cases of invasive breast cancer occur in women age 55 and older.
Race and Ethnicity
Breast cancer is slightly more common among white woman than African-American, Asian, Latina, or Native American women. However, African-American women tend to have more aggressive types of breast cancer tumors and are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of other races. It is unclear whether this is mainly due to biologic or socioeconomic reasons. Social and economic factors make it less likely that African-American women will be screened, so they are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage. They are also less likely to have access to effective treatments.
Breast cancer is also more prevalent among Jewish women of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent (see Genetic Factors, below).
Family and Personal History
Review Date: 11/08/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.