Breast Cancer Incidence and Death Rates – Rising Or Falling?

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, and has been the most frequent cause of death in women, second only to death from lung cancer. Less frequently breast cancer can occur in men. According to the American Cancer Society’s annual statistics report of 2010, in general, rates have risen about 30% in the past 25 years in western countries, due in part to increased screening which detects the cancer in earlier stages. In the United States, rates decreased by 10% between 2000-2004, due in part to a reduction in the use of hormone replacement therapy. Although breast cancer rates are rising in many western countries, death rates in the United States continue to decline mainly because of falling smoking rates, improved cancer treatments, and earlier and better cancer detection.

Facts on current incidence and death rates in the United States

The terms ‘incidence’ and prevalence are sometimes confusing. Incidence refers to the annual diagnosis rate, or the number of new cases diagnosed each year, while the term ‘prevalence’ refers to the estimated population of people who are managing breast cancer at any given time.


1. In 2010, 209,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur in women, while only about 1,000 are expected to occur in men. Of the cases in women, 85% will be ductal carcinoma. New cases of in-situ (non-invasive) breast cancer are expected to be 54,010. However, since 1998, the incidence of in-situ cancer in Caucasian women have been declining, while that in Afro-American women have risen, possibly due to more frequent and better diagnosis.

2. In 2010, the five states with the highest breast cancer incidence in women is in the order of Connecticut, District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire. The lowest incidence in women is in the order of Mississippi, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada.

3. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in a lifetime in the United States.

Death Rates

1. Death rates have steadily decreased in women since 1990 with greater decreases in women who are less than 50 years of age by 3.2% per year, and in women older than 50 by 2.0 % per year.

2. The estimated number of deaths due to breast cancer is 40,230, which is 19 % of the total new cases in 2010. Of these deaths, again, a majority of 99.1% will be in women.

3. The five states with the highest estimated death rates for 2010 are in the order of California, New York, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania.

4. The five states with the lowest estimated death rates for 2010 are in the order of:Wyoming, North Dakota, District of Columbia, Alabama and Arkansas.

5. The five year survival rate for all breast cancers has risen from 63% in the 1960’s to approximately 90 % today.

Therefore, due to better and earlier diagnosis, statistics show that there are more women who actively have breast cancer (prevalence) than previously shown. However, death rates are declining due to earlier and better diagnosis as well as better treatment strategies.

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by Audrey Robinson


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