Breast Cancer Facts

Breast Cancer In General

  • Breast cancer accounts for 16% of cancers in women worldwide. It is the most common cancer in women both globally and in the United States, with the exception of skin cancer. (2)
  • The latest statistics show a 5-year survival rate of 77% for African American women and 90% for white women. (5)
  • 1 in 8 women risk being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lives, compared to a 1 in 11 likelihood in the 1970s. (5)
  • There are currently more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors (including women still being treated) in the United States. (1)
  • There is a 1 in 36 chance that breast cancer will cause death in women. It is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among women. (1)
  • Men can get breast cancer too, although it is about 100 times less common in men than women (a 1 in 1,000 chance). Chances of survival are about the same for men and women diagnosed with breast cancer. (1)

Breast Cancer Early Detection

  • Many women diagnosed with breast cancer go on to live long and healthy lives when the cancer is detected early. (3)
  • Most lumps and masses that are found through examinations are benign – they are non-cancerous and not life threatening. (2)
  • Early detection can be accomplished through a combination of monthly breast self-exams beginning at age 18, yearly clinical breast exams, and breast imaging (mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs).
  • Mammograms are the most successful tests in identifying breast cancer early. They can detect cases up to three years before they can be felt. (3)
  • There are several stages of breast cancer. The more advanced the stage at diagnoses is, the lower the chance of survival. (5)

 Breast Cancer Risk Reduction

  • There is no evidence that associates underwire bras, antiperspirants, or breast implants with breast cancers despite some common myths.  5
  • There are many factors that contribute to the increased likelihood of breast cancer. They include life expectancy, changes in reproductive patterns, menopausal hormone use, increased rates of obesity, and increased detection through screening. (5)
  • A familial history of breast cancer increases the risk by a factor of two or three. (2)
  • Obese breast cancer patients have about a 30% higher risk of death compared to those who maintain a healthy weight.

 Breast Cancer & Healthy Lifestyles

  • More than a third of breast cancer cases can be prevented by controlling factors such as weight, physical activity, alcohol use, and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of developing breast cancer. (4)
  • Most types of breast cancer are estrogen-related. Many of the recommended preventative measures involve keeping estrogen levels low.
  • It is recommended to engage in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and follow a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grans, and beans. Restrict sugary drinks, red meat, processed meat, and fast food. (4) Limit how many saturated fats you eat and avoid trans fats.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages – even just one drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer.
  • Avoid smoking. Studies indicate that people who smoke during their teen years significantly increase their risk for breast cancer compared to people who don’t.


  1. American Cancer Society
  2. Center for Disease Control & Prevention United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) 1999-2009 Incidence and Mortality Data
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  4. American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
  5. American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012