Statistics For Breast Cancer Epidemiology: Who Gets It, Who Survives, And Known Risk Factors

If you've never known a woman with breast cancer, you're either lucky or completely antisocial. Statistics for breast cancer epidemiology show that about one in eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in her life. Each year, over 240,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. This article takes a look at the story behind some of these numbers. Who is at risk for breast cancer? Who is more likely to survive? And should we really be concerned about our risk factors?
Epidemiology refers to the study of a disease: its patterns, its causes, its mortality rates, and whether or not it can be controlled. This article takes a look at the statistics for breast cancer epidemiology.

General Numbers

According to American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in her lifetime. Each year, more than 240,000 women and 2000 men receive a new diagnosis of breast cancer.

The National Breast Cancer Coalition estimates that there are currently over three million women living with breast cancer in the United States. Over two million have been officially diagnosed, and one million have the disease but are not aware of it.

Survival

Women have been encouraged to do self breast exams and have regular mammograms to detect breast cancer early. In addition, many treatments are available for breast cancer including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy (anti-cancer medications), hormonal therapy, etc.

According to statistics for breast cancer epidemiology, 90% of Caucasian women are still alive five years after diagnosis. Among Black women, however, this five year survival rate is only about 77%.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. (Lung cancer is the first.)

Gender/Race/Sexual Orientation

Women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to develop breast cancer.

White women develop breast cancer more often than Black women, but Black women are more likely to die from it. Social factors such as lack of access to good healthcare and racial bias in the healthcare system probably play a part in this statistic, but according to the American Cancer Society, researchers have also found that Black women’s breast tumors tend to be more aggressive and harder to treat.

Years ago, a study suggested that lesbians were much more likely to develop breast cancer than heterosexual women. Subsequent studies have shown that, while lesbians are likely to have more risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and not giving birth to children, the actual rates at which they do develop breast cancer are not significantly greater than the rates of heterosexual women.

Age

Statistics for breast cancer epidemiology demonstrate that over eighty percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of fifty.

Only about five percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women under the age of forty, but these cancers tend to be more aggressive and deadly. Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer have much lower survival rates than do older women.

Risk Factors

According to the statistics for breast cancer epidemiology, the two biggest risk factors are age (with women over fifty making up the majority of breast cancer diagnoses) and gender (with women overwhelmingly more likely to develop breast cancer than men).

There are other known risk factors, including genetics (although 90 to 95% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history), race, having a previous diagnosis of breast cancer (women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past are three to four times more likely to develop new cancers in the same or the opposite breast), early onset of menstruation, obesity, etc., but according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, known risk factors account for only about 30% of breast cancer diagnoses. The other 70% of women who were diagnosed did not have any known risk factors.

Next Steps

Researchers continue to study new treatments for breast cancer to improve cure rates. They are also working hard to better understand the risk factors so that the disease can be prevented.
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