Breast Cancer Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

More than 3 million Americans live with breast cancer

Many people know someone diagnosed with breast cancer—millions have been diagnosed themself. It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer, other than skin cancer. 

Breast cancer is when cells in the breast tissue start to grow out of control and form a tumor. Breast cancer can develop in people of any sex but is much more common in those assigned female at birth. 

In 2022, there will be around 290,560 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the U.S. (2,710 cases of male breast cancer and 287,850 cases of female breast cancer).

Thankfully, the survival rate for breast cancer is good and has been steadily improving over the last 30 years. More than 3.5 million women are currently living with breast cancer.

This article will review the basic facts about breast cancer—including how common it is, who gets it, and how likely it is to be deadly. 

Healthcare provider discusses breast cancer imaging with person

gorodenkoff / Getty Images

Breast Cancer Overview

Breast cancer is a disease defined by an abnormal growth of cells in the breast. It often presents without symptoms. It is typically discovered during regular screenings called a mammogram.  

How Common Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer, aside from those developing in the skin. In 2022, an estimated 290,560 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed. These cases account for about 15% of all new cancer cases. Of these, about 2,710 will develop in males, and 287,850 will develop in females.

Lifetime Risk

The lifetime risk of breast cancer for females is 1 in 8. For males, it is 100 times less, with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 833.

Breast cancer incidence peaked in 1999, with a rate of 138.8 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 women in the American population. This is a rate of 1 out of 720 women diagnosed with breast cancer that year.

While incidence has dipped slightly over the years, it’s still only marginally lower in the most recent years studied. Data collected between 2014 and 2018 showed 131.3 cases for every 100,000 women (about 1 in 788).

An estimated 43,780 people with breast cancer will die in 2022, of which 530 are male and 43,250 are female. Breast cancer will be the cause of about 7% of all cancer deaths in 2022.

Breast Cancer by Ethnicity

Breast cancer is common in people of all ethnicities. While more common in White peple, it is more deadly in Black people. Between 2013 and 2017, the breast cancer death rate was 40% higher in Black people than White people.

The most dangerous subtype of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, is more common in Black people. The prevalence of this more deadly type may cause some of the disparity in death rates, but it is not the only reason. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced disease due to inequalities in care.

Breast cancer in men is also more common and more dangerous for Black people. The incidence of breast cancer in Black men is 1 in 50,000, while the mortality is 1 in 200,000. In White men, these numbers are slightly lower: 1 in 77,000 are diagnosed with male breast cancer and 1 in 333,333 die from it.

Incidence and Death Rates of Female Breast Cancer by Ethnic Group
Ethnic Group Incidence Rate Death Rate
Non-Hispanic White 132.5 19.9
Non-Hispanic Black 127.1 28
American Indian and Alaska Native 110.5 17.8
Asian and Pacific Islander 98.8 11.7
Hispanic 96.3 13.7
The yearly average incidence and death rates by ethnic group for female breast cancer in the U.S. across the years of 2014 and 2018. The number listed is how many patients either were diagnosed with female breast cancer (incidence rate) or died of female breast cancer (death rate) in a given year per 100,000 women in the general population. Data from American Cancer Society.
Incidence and Death Rates of Male Breast Cancer by Ethnic Group
Ethnic Group Incidence Rate Death Rate
Non-Hispanic Black 1.9 0.5
Non-Hispanic White 1.3 0.3
Hispanic 0.8 0.2
Asian and Pacific Islander 0.7 0.1
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.6 0
The yearly average incidence and death rates by ethnic group for male breast cancer in the U.S. across the years of 2013 and 2017. The number listed is how many patients either were diagnosed with male breast cancer (incidence rate) or died of male breast cancer (death rate) in a given year per 100,000 men in the general population. Data from the CDC.

Breast Cancer by Age

Male and female breast cancer are more likely to develop the older you are. Eighty percent of new female breast cancer cases and 90% of deaths are in people 50 years and older.

Percent Probability of Developing Female Breast Cancer by Age
Age Developing Dying
0 to 49 2.1% 0.2%
50 to 59 2.4% 0.3%
60 to 69 3.5% 0.5%
70 and over 7% 1.9%
Probability of developing or dying of female breast cancer, by age. Average based on years 2016 to 2018, percent of all American women. Data from American Cancer Society
Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Deaths by Age
Age Developed Died
0 to 49 0.2 0.0
50 to 59 1.7 0.3
60 to 69 4.0 0.8
70 to 79 6.7 1.4
80 and over 8.3 2.7
Incidence and mortality by age for male breast cancer, based on data from years 2013 to 2017 — per 100,000 males in the population. Data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Causes of Breast Cancer and Risk Factors

Many factors play into the development of breast cancer. There is no one cause of breast cancer. Most of the time, no one knows what leads to the development of cancerous growth. Tumors are typically the result of many risk factors working together, including genetic changes, lifestyle factors, and family history. 

Sometimes breast cancer is caused by genetic changes in particular genes, those passed down by your family or that result from your ethnic group.

Some of the lifestyle risk factors for female breast cancer include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Living a sedentary life
  • Not having children
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Using hormonal birth control or other types of hormone therapy (e.g., for menopause symptoms)

What Are the Mortality Rates for Breast Cancer?

Based on data from 2012 to 2018, the five-year relative mortality rate is 9.4%. That means 90.6% of people with female breast cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.

The mortality rate for male breast cancer is higher, at 16%. That means that 84% of men who develop breast cancer will still be alive five years after diagnosis. The worse mortality rate in men is primarily due to later diagnosis of breast cancer in males—after a lump has developed and cancer has spread from its original tissue.

What Is Survival Rate?

The survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a disease such as cancer for a specified amount of time after diagnosis. But it is presented in many different ways.

Between 2015 and 2019, about 1 in 5,000 women in the U.S. died of breast cancer. Mortality rates for breast cancer have been declining steadily since 1990.

Before 1990, mortality rates for breast cancer in women hovered between 30 to 35 women dying from breast cancer for every 100,000 women in the U.S. population. In 2019 this number dropped below 20 for the first time.

Between 1989 and 2017, breast cancer death dropped by 40%, and 375,900 deaths were avoided during those 28 years.

Screening and Early Detection of Breast Cancer

When screening catches cancers early, they’re easier to treat and cure. The low mortality rate of breast cancer has a lot to do with how early cancer is detected—often before the person can feel a lump.

The usual way to screen for breast cancer is a mammogram. A mammogram machine takes a picture of the breast tissue using X-rays.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women with average risk who are 45 to 54 should get a yearly mammogram to catch breast cancer early. At age 55 and older, they may switch to getting a mammogram every two years or continue with yearly mammograms.

For every 1,000 screenings performed, mammograms detect five breast cancers. Without mammograms, many of these cancers would progress before being found.

A recent study in the ACS journal Cancer showed that women who got mammograms had a 41% reduced risk of dying from breast cancer within 10 years and a 25% reduced chance of being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

People who are transgender should discuss their risks with their healthcare provider to determine whether they may benefit from screening for breast cancer.

Summary

Though breast cancer mainly affects only half of the population, it is one of the most common cancers. There are no clear-cut causes of breast cancer, but lifestyle factors can affect how likely you are to develop it. 

You may have a predisposition to developing it and other cancers if you have some specific genetic mutations and may be at higher risk if you have a family history of breast cancer. Non-Hispanic Black people have the highest death rates for breast cancer, and non-Hispanic White people have the highest incidence rates. 

Thankfully for the hard work of researchers, survival rates for breast cancer have steadily improved over the last 30 years. Along with improved early screening through mammograms and regular self-checks, more than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the breast cancer survival rate?

    Breast cancer has a very good survival rate. More than 90% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive five years later.

  • What are the early signs of breast cancer?

    Early signs of breast cancer can include:

    • Breast swelling—even without a lump
    • Dimpling of the skin dimpling
    • Pain in the breast or nipple 
    • Nipple turning inward
    • Skin changes on the nipple or breast (flaking, red, dry, or thick)
    • Discharge from the nipple discharge
    • Lymph nodes that are enlarged from swelling


  • Can men get breast cancer?

    Men can develop breast cancer, but it is rare—in the United States, approximately 2,700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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