25 Fast Facts: Breast Cancer By The Numbers

Patient Expert

Ready for some light reading? Looking for conversational icebreakers for the waiting room? Want to be ready when your colleagues, who think you now know EVERYTHING about breast cancer, ask you a question? Take a look at these 25 fast facts. But don't worry there's no quiz afterwards. You've already passed the cancer course.

1. Surveys show that women's #1 health fear is breast cancer.

2. On January 1, 2005, the latest date for which figures are available, there were approximately 2,477,847 breast cancer survivors in the United States.

3. Your chance of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years:
-Age 20, 1 in 1,837;
-Age 30, 1 in 234;
-Age 40, 1 in 70;
-Age 50, 1 in 50;
-Age 60, 1 in 28;
-Age 70, 1 in 26.

4. Although the breast cancer diagnosis rate has increased since the early 1990s, the overall death rate from breast cancer has dropped.

5. It's estimated that approximately $8.1 billion is spent in the United States each year on breast cancer treatment.

6. Most studies have found no link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer.

7. Breast cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in American women, following heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses.

8. The percentage of women aged 40 and older who report having had a mammogram within the past 2 years increased from 29% in 1987 to 70% in 2000, then decreased to 66% in 2005.

9. Barring a cure, an estimated 5 million Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the next 25 years. More than 1 million could die.

10. About 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors for it at all.

11. On average, mammography will detect about 80%-90% of breast cancers in women without symptoms.

12. The majority of breast lumps women discover are not cancer. Of lumps that are biopsied, 80% are benign.

13. 61% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed before the cancer has spread outside the breast; 5-year relative survival rates for these cancers is 98.1%.

14. About 6 out of every 100 women will develop breast cancer between their 50th and 70th birthdays.

15. It's estimated that 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are the result of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Less than 1% of the general population has these mutations.

16. Based on rates from 2003-2005, just over 12% of women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

17. Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death (after lung cancer), in American women.

18. Breast cancer is very rare in women under 40. From 2000-2004, 95% of new cases and 97% of breast cancer deaths occurred in women aged 40 and older.

19. 31% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread outside the breast (to regional lymph nodes, but not beyond). The 5-year relative survival rate for these cancers is 83.8%.

20. Alcohol consumption increases your breast cancer risk. Studies suggest that the equivalent of 2 drinks a day (24g of alcohol) may increase breast cancer risk by 21%.

21. "Drinking coffee, using antiperspirant, having your hair straightened, or wearing an underwire bra or tight clothing can cause breast cancer." Common myths, unsupported by scientific evidence.

22. The federal government spends more than $900 million each year on breast cancer research, treatment, and prevention.

23. Estimated new cases of breast cancer in the United States in 2008: 184,450, about one new diagnosis every 3 1/2 minutes.

24. Mammograms are the single most effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer in its early stages. As of 2004, the highest screening rate was in Delaware; the lowest, in Idaho.

25. Breast cancers survivors are the largest group of cancer survivors in the U.S.