“We can’t say for sure what the reasons are for
the slowing of the decline in breast cancer mortality. It could be
due in part to the slight increase in incidence since 2004, as well
as a sign that optimal breast cancer treatment has become more
widespread, particularly among white women,” said Carol DeSantis,
MPH, lead author of the report. “However, more can and should be
done to ensure that all women have access to quality care to help
eliminate disparities and further reduce breast cancer mortality.”
The findings are published in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures
2019-2020 and in Breast Cancer Statistics, 2019 in CA: A Cancer
Journal for Clinicians. They provide detailed analyses of breast
cancer trends and current information on known risk factors; 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. Men can get breast cancer, too, but this
is much less common. By the end of 2019, an estimated 268,600 women
and 2,670 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. An estimated
41,760 women and 500 men will die from it. Breast cancer risk
generally increases with age. About 8 of every 10 new breast cancer
cases and 9 of every 10 deaths are in women 50 years old and older.
On January 1, 2019, more than 3.8 million women were living in the
US with a history of breast cancer. Some of them were cancer-free,
while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been
Race and ethnic
White and black women have higher breast cancer incidence and death
rates than women of other racial and ethnic groups. Asian and
Pacific Islander women have the lowest incidence and death rates.
White women get breast cancer at a slightly higher rate than black
women. But black women are more likely to get breast cancer before
they are 40, and are more likely to die from it at any age. They
also have higher rates of triple negative breast cancer, an
aggressive kind of breast cancer with lower survival rates. The
breast cancer death rate during 2013 through 2017 was 40% higher in
black women than in white women.
[to top of second column]
Breast cancer death rates are higher in black women
than white women in every state – as much as 60% higher in some
states. The highest rates among black women are found in some of the
South Central and Mid-Atlantic states, and California. The study
authors suggest the disparities are likely due to differences in
risk factors and access to screening and treatment, which are
influenced by socio-economic factors, legislative policies, and
distance to medical services.
During 2016-2017, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer
deaths (surpassing lung cancer) among black women in 6 states
(Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South
Carolina), as well as among white women in Utah.
Prevention and early detection
The overall declines in breast cancer death rates since 1989 have
been attributed to both improvements in treatment and early
detection by mammograms. Following American Cancer Society
guidelines for breast cancer screening can help women find breast
cancer earlier, when treatments are more likely to be effective.
Women can help lower their risk of breast cancer by making
healthy lifestyle changes.
Get to and stay at a healthy weight. Studies show obesity and excess
weight increase the risk of developing breast cancer, especially
after menopause. Losing even a small amount of weight has health
benefits and is a good place to start.
Be physically active. Growing evidence suggests that women who get
regular physical activity have a 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
Limit alcohol. Many studies have confirmed that drinking alcohol
increases the risk of breast cancer in women.
Avoid tobacco. Some studies have shown that heavy smoking over a
long time might be linked to a slightly higher risk of breast
cancer, especially in women who begin smoking before they give birth
to their first child. Quitting has numerous health benefits.
[Written By: Stacy Simon Senior
American Cancer Society]