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Breast Cancer Facts and Stats

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. women, excluding cancers of the skin, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., exceeded only by lung cancer.1,2 Women born today have about a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer at some point during their lives.1

Free breast cancer screening and diagnostic services for eligible women in California are offered through Every Woman Counts (EWC). For information about services in other states, see the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). Find more information in the last section of this document: For Information on Cancer Screening Services for Medically Underserved Women.

Key Statistics:

  • In 2017, an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 63,410 cases of breast carcinoma in situ will be diagnosed in U.S. women.3
  • In 2017, an estimated 40,610 U.S. women will die from breast cancer.3
  • Breast cancer incidence (rate of new cases) is highest for White women and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native women.4
  • From 1989 to 2012, breast cancer death rates fell 36% in the U.S., translating to 249,000 fewer breast cancer deaths during this time period.5
  • Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than women from other racial/ethnic groups. The rates (per 100,000 people) are as follows6:
  • Black: 29.6
    White: 21.0
    American Indian/Alaskan Native: 14.7
    Hispanic: 14.5
    Asian/Pacific Islander:   11.2
  • Black women also have higher rates of distant-stage disease, high-grade disease, and triple negative breast cancer than women belonging to other racial/ethnic groups.7
  • The five-year relative survival rates for breast cancer are as follows:2
  • Stage 0 and I: close to100%
    Stage II: 93%
    Stage III: 73%
    Stage IV: 22%
  • In the U.S., nearly 9 out of 10 women with breast cancer will survive at least five years after their diagnosis.6
  • As of January 1, 2014, 3.1 million women living in the U.S. women were survivors of breast cancer.1,8


Screening Guidelines:

Breast cancer screening guidelines from three major organizations are compared in the table below. These guidelines apply to women of average risk only.

Comparison of USPSTF9,10, ACS1,11, and ACOG12 Screening Guidelines
United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2016 American Cancer Society (ACS) 2015 American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) 2011
Age to begin screening mammography 50
(though women may choose to begin between the ages of 40 and 49)
(though women should have the opportunity to begin between ages of 40 and 44)
Frequency of screening mammography Biennial Annual
(women 55 and older may transition to biennial or continue with annual mammography)
Age to end screening mammography 74
(insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening mammography in women 75 and older)
Screening mammography should continue for as long as a woman is in good health and has a life expectancy of 10 years or more Women 75 and older should decide whether or not to continue screening mammography in consultation with their healthcare providers
Clinical breast examination (CBE) Insufficient evidence to assess the additional benefits of CBE beyond mammography in women 40 and older Not recommended at any age Should be performed every 1-3 years in women 20-39 years old and annually in women 40 and older
Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT, also called 3D Mammography) Insufficient evidence to assesses benefits and harms of DBT as a primary screening method Too few data on DBT to compare it with 2D mammography N/A


Risk Factors:

Risk factors that change screening protocols: 

Women with certain risk factors will have different screening protocols than those designed for average risk women, which may include adjunctive screening with MRI, referral to a genetic counselor and/or earlier or more frequent mammograms.11,13-16 This includes women who have:

  • A history of therapeutic radiation to the chest as a child or young adult17, 18
  • Certain genetic mutations16, 19-24
  • A first degree relative with certain genetic mutations14, 16, 25
  • A family history of breast or other BRCA-related cancer (such as ovarian cancer)23, 24
  • A personal history of breast cancer (invasive or in situ)26-32
  • A personal history of  lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)33-36
  • A personal history of  atypical hyperlasia (ADH or ALH)37, 38
  • A lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% or higher or a five-year risk of 1.67% or higher11, 25

For more details about breast cancer screening for higher risk women, please see the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines.13

Other risk factors:

Other factors also increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer but do not necessarily change her screening protocol. These factors include:

  • Age: The incidence of breast cancer rises with age.39
  • Sex: Breast cancer is 100 times more common in women than men.2
  • Benign Breast Disease: The risk of breast cancer is higher in women diagnosed with proliferative lesions and may also be slightly increased for women with non-proliferative lesions.37, 38
  • Breast Density:  Women with mammographically dense breasts are at higher risk of  breast cancer than those with fatty breasts. 40-42 Dense breast tissue can also make it harder to detect cancer with mammography. 43, 44
  • Reproductive History: Some reproductive factors increase risk, including early age at menarche, later age at menopause, nulliparity (never having children), and giving birth for the first time at an older age.45-49
  • Hormone Therapy After Menopause (also called hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy) :  The use of hormone replacement therapy that contains both estrogen and progestin increases the risk of breast cancer, with risk increasing with duration.50-56
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): In post-menopausal women, the risk of breast cancer is higher in women with high BMI and in women who gain weight in adulthood.57-67 In contrast, high BMI is associated with lower risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.57, 62, 64, 67, 68
  • Height: Women of tall stature are at a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.65, 69-72  
  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption increases a woman's risk of breast cancer; the level of risk is dose-dependent.73-82


Risk Reduction:

It is estimated that between 29%-33% of breast cancers in the United States could be prevented by changes in lifestyle. Among women whose risk is elevated, it is estimated that as many as 50% of breast cancer cases could be eliminated through the use of preventive medications. 83-85

  • Maintaining a Healthy BMI: For post-menopausal women, weight reduction may reduce the risk of breast cancer.60, 86
  • Breast Feeding: For women who have children, breast feeding protects against breast cancer, with risk decreasing as duration of breastfeeding increases.46, 62, 87-89
  • Exercise: Women who engage in regular physical activity may reduce their lifetime risk of breast cancer by as much as 25%.90-95
  • Chemoprevention: For women at higher risk of breast cancer, the use of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and aromatase inhibitors (AIs) significantly reduces the risk of invasive estrogen receptor- positive breast cancer.96-98 Several major organizations recommend that chemoprevention be discussed as an option for women 35 and older who are at increased risk.99-101


For information on cancer screening services for medically underserved women:

Breast and cervical cancer screening services are available to medically underserved women living in the United States through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). This national program is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and provides access to free or low-cost screening for eligible women. In California, the Every Woman Counts (EWC) program assists low income, uninsured, underserved women in obtaining high quality breast and cervical cancer screening and follow-up services. The program is funded through the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), from federal grant monies, and State of California funds: The Breast Cancer Control Account (BCCA), Proposition 99, and the General Fund.

Women who would like to find an EWC provider in their area may call the 24-hour automated EWC consumer line at 1-800-511-2300 or use the online provider locator.



Show References Hide References
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Last updated: January 10, 2017


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