22 Facts About Breast Cancer


After skin cancers, breast cancer is the second leading type experienced by American women. Thanks to annual mammograms and awareness campaigns about monthly self-examinations of the breast, the number of women who receive an early diagnosis and survive breast cancer is increasing every year. According to the American Cancer Society, more than three million people in the United States have survived breast cancer. This includes less than one percent of men as well as people still receiving treatment for it.

As encouraging as these numbers are, it’s important to know that one in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in her lifetime. That is why arming yourself with knowledge about this common type of cancer is so essential. Below are 22 factsthat everyone should understand about breast cancer to feel better prepared if they or a loved one receives a diagnosis.

Facts About Breast Cancer

  1. For the year 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates that 252,710 women and 2,470 men received a new breast cancer diagnosis.
  2. Approximately 80 percent of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any family history of the disease.
  3. After heart disease, breast cancer is the leading cause of death for American women.
  4. A woman who has a first-degree relative with a history of breast cancer, which includes a mother, sister, or daughter, has a two-fold risk of developing it herself.
  5. The cancer risk for women has increased from one in 11 in the 1970s to one in eight today. This may sound like bad news, but you need to consider that the past 40 to 50 years have brought increased lifespans and early detection of cancerous tumors. Other factors contributing to the increase include a growing obesity epidemic, use of hormone replacement therapy during menopause, and the tendency to delay childbearing into the 30s and even the 40s.
  6. Age is a considerable risk factor in developing breast cancer as well. It’s far more common in women over age 55 than in younger women.
  7. Medical researchers can trace up to 10 percent of breast cancers to a specific and inherited mutation of a person’s genes. The most common genes involved in hereditary breast cancer are: BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  8. The five-year survival rate after a diagnosis of breast cancer is approximately 90 percent.
  9. Approximately two-thirds of women with an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 gene develop breast cancer by their 70th birthday. This also holds true for slightly less than half of women with the BRCA2 gene mutation.
  10. It’s more common for women with a gene mutation in a gene with a link to breast cancer to be diagnosed at a younger age. Unfortunately, it’s also more common for them to develop the disease in both breasts.
  11. White women not of Hispanic heritage have higher rates of breast cancer. However, women of African-American heritage receive a diagnosis before age 40 more frequently and are more likely to die from breast cancer regardless of their age.
  12. The largest percentage of women who inherit a gene mutation come from an Ashkenazi Jewish background. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that women from this heritage test for BRCA if a first-degree relative has or had breast or ovarian cancer or two second-degree relatives have or had either disease.
  13. Breastfeeding for more than one year can reduce the risk of breast cancer by slightly more than four percent. This is due to the decreased amount of estrogen production due to the lack of menstruation.
  14. The risk of breast cancer is slightly higher for women who started menstruation before age 12 or completed menopause after age 55 due to more years of estrogen exposure.
  15. Women who have more fibrous or glandular tissue and less fatty tissue in their breasts have up to twice the risk of developing cancer.
  16. A 2017 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that younger women with breast cancer are increasingly choosing to have both breasts removed. This is true even among those with early-stage cancer in only one breast.
  17. While physicians and patients may disagree, it’s important to discuss screening recommendations with your provider.
  18. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer for all women, even those who are already trim and don’t need to lose any weight. The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults engage in exercise of moderate intensity at least 150 minutes per week. If that’s not manageable, exercising even 30 minutes per week can offer measurable benefits.
  19. Another way you can reduce your breast cancer risk is to limit your intake of alcohol. Preferably, you should not consume more than one glass of beer, wine, or hard liquor per day.
  20. Smoking also increases your risk of developing breast cancer. This is especially true among younger women. The sooner you quit, the more you reduce your risk.
  21. Women who survive breast cancer have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. You should continue to work closely after completing a treatment to ensure that your bones remain strong.
  22. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, a second opinion could save your life. Speak to your doctor about all available treatment options.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or suspect that you could have it, you’re in good hands with your providers at the Western Maryland Health System Center for Breast Care. We’re here to answer any questions you have, including what you can do to lower your risks if you don’t have the disease.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.