Breast Cancer Death Rates Down 34% Since 1990

Originally posted October 01, 2013 by Stacy Simon on

A new report from the American Cancer Society finds that death rates from breast cancer in the United States have dropped 34% since 1990. But the rate at which new breast cancers are diagnosed increased slightly among African American women from 2006 to 2010, bringing those rates closer to those of white women, who still have the highest diagnosis rates among women ages 40 and older.

The findings are published in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014 and in Breast Cancer Statistics, 2013 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The reports, published every 2 years, provide detailed analyses of breast cancer trends and present information on known risk factors for the disease, factors that influence survival, the latest data on prevention, early detection, treatment, and ongoing research.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed in women. By the end of 2013, an estimated 232,340 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and an estimated 39,620 women will die from breast cancer. The risks generally increase with age. Almost 8 of every 10 new breast cancer cases and almost 9 of every 10 breast cancer deaths are in women 50 years old and older.

In January 2012, more than 2.9 million women living in the U.S. had a history of breast cancer. Some of them were cancer-free, while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment.

Race and Ethnic Factors

White women get breast cancer at a higher rate than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to get breast cancer before they are 40, and are more likely to die from it at any age. Incidence and death rates for breast cancer are lower among women of other racial and ethnic groups. Asian and Pacific Islander women have the lowest incidence and death rates.

Disparities also exist regarding the prevalence of breast cancer types among racial and ethnic groups. Breast cancers that are estrogen receptor-negative are often harder to treat because they are not likely to respond to hormone therapy. In every age group, African American women have the highest rates of this type of breast cancer. White women have the highest rates of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

Prevention and Early Detection

  • Because obesity and excess weight increase the risk of developing breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that women maintain a healthy weight throughout their life. Losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
  • Growing evidence suggests that women who get regular physical activity have a 10%-20% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who get no exercise. Doing even a little physical activity beyond your regular daily routine can have many health benefits.
  • Many studies have confirmed that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 7% to 12% for each serving per day. If you do drink alcohol, the American Cancer Society recommends women limit themselves to no more than 1 drink per day.
  • A recent study by American Cancer Society researchers found that current smokers had a 12% higher risk of breast cancer than women who never smoked. Research also suggests that risk may be greater for women who begin smoking before they give birth to their first child. Quitting has numerous health benefits.
  • To find breast cancer early, when treatments are more likely to be successful, the American Cancer Societyrecommends women 40 and older have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year, and younger women have clinical breast exams periodically as well (preferably at least every 3 years).

Citations:  Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2013-2014. Published October 1, 2013. American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.

Breast Cancer Statistics, 2013. Published October 1, 2013 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. First author Carol DeSantis, MPH, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.


7 Breast Cancer Misconceptions

Originally posted September 20, 2013 by Vince Pierri on

Our nation spends more money on breast cancer research than any other type of cancer. Still, many women are confused about the basics, like the signs, symptoms and treatments.

“With the deluge of information, tips and advice about breast cancer these days, it’s easy to get lost,” says Dr. Heidi Memmel, a breast surgeon at Advocate Health Care. “It’s more important than ever that women have a clear understanding of the issues.”

Dr. Memmel shares 7 of the biggest misconceptions to separate fact from the fiction:

1. FictionIf I have no family history of breast cancer, then I am not at risk.

Fact: Approximately 70 percent to 75 percent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history.

2. FictionThere is nothing I can do to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer.

Fact: We can’t completely prevent cancer, but we can reduce the risks by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and reducing our alcohol consumption.

3. FictionMy mammogram was normal, so I don’t have to worry about getting breast cancer.

Fact: Mammograms are a good annual screening tool, but they do not detect all breast cancers.  It is still important to perform a self-breast exam once a month and have a doctor’s exam once a year.

4. FictionUnderwire bras can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Fact: Underwire bras or trauma to the breast do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

5. FictionCancer cells can spread during a biopsy.

Fact: Cancer cells do not spread from a biopsy. A biopsy can confirm that cancerous cells are present.

6. FictionI’ve been cancer-free for five years from my diagnosis, so there is no chance of it returning.

Fact: There is less risk of a cancer returning in the breast or elsewhere in the body after five to 10 years, but there is still a slight risk. It’s important to see a doctor regularly and have regular mammograms.

7. FictionMy weight and the size of my breasts do not affect my risk of breast cancer.

Fact: Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer.  Obese women are more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive tumors and diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

For more information on breast health, visit