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Janet Gray, Ph.D.
Janet Gray, Ph.D.

As author of our 2008 and 2010 State of the Evidence reports, Dr. Gray drives the science behind all our work.

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Breast Cancer Statistics

A Brief Introduction

Globally, breast cancer affects more women than any other type of cancer and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women (Jemal, 2011).

In the United States, breast cancer has the highest mortality rates of any cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 59. The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health predicts that in 2013, 234,580 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2012, 39,510 women and 410 men died from the disease (American Cancer Society, 2013).


In the United States between 2004 and 2008, white women had the highest overall annual incidence rate for the disease (125.4 cases per 100,000 women), followed by African Americans (116.1 per 100,000), Hispanics/Latinas (91.0 per 100,000), American Indians/Alaska Natives (89.2 per 100,000), and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (84.9 per 100,000). American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2011-2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.

A U.S. woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer increased steadily and dramatically from the 1930s, when the first reliable cancer incidence data were established, through the end of the twentieth century (Jatoi, 2005). Between 1973 and 1998, breast cancer incidence rates in the United States increased by more than 40 percent (NCI, 2001). Today a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8 (SEER, 2012).

As cancer incidence data have become more nuanced over the past decade, it is clear that the incidence of breast cancer varies considerably by a number of factors, including age and ethnicity. 

Among women younger than 45, breast cancer incidence is higher among African American women than white women (Horner, 2009). Younger women in general, and younger African American women in particular, are more likely to present with the triple-negative subtype of the disease, a diagnosis that is both more aggressive and associated with a higher mortality (Bowen, 2006; Lund, 2009).


Mortality rates by racial groups have been recorded for three full decades since 1975 only for black and white women in the United States. Mortality for other broadly-defined racial groups have been recorded since 1990. At any age, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than are white women. While mortality rates for both groups have recently decreased, the reduction has been much less for black women, and the disparity between mortality rates for white and black women grew from the mid-1980s, when they were comparable, to the mid-2000s (American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2012).