Breast Cancer Facts & Figures in Brief

Breast Cancer Diagnoses Keep Increasing Slightly 

For 10 years, slight increases in breast cancer incidence rates may be partly due to more women having obesity, fewer children, or their first baby after 30.

Our Surveillance and Health Equity Science (SHES) program analyzes data on breast cancer each year as part of its Cancer Facts & Figures report and every 3 years in its Breast Cancer Facts & Figures report.

These publications provide detailed analyses and estimates of cancer incidence and mortality trends in the United States. They also have the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research.

Key breast cancer statistics in the US include:

  • Breast cancer alone accounts for 30% of newly diagnosed invasive cancers in women. Together, the 3 most common types of cancer in woman—breast, lung, and colorectal—account for 50% of all new cases in women.
  • About 281,550 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2021. Incidence rates have increased slightly—by about 0.5% a year on average—in the last decade. This may be due in part to increased obesity and women having fewer children or having their first child after age 30. 
  • About 12% of women who are screened for breast cancer have an abnormal mammogram, but only 5% of these women have cancer. 
  • About 43,600 women will die from the disease in 2021For women, the death rate declined 41% between 1989 and 2018. 
  • Not all women have benefited equally from this progress. Non-Hispanic Black women at every age are more likely to die from breast cancer. The higher breast cancer death rate in Black women in part reflects the higher number of diagnoses of triple negative breast cancer in Black women. Black women are twice as likely as women of other racial and ethnic groups in the US to be diagnosed with this harder-to-treat cancer.
  • Black women do not have the same access to high-quality cancer care compared to white women. They are more likely to be screened at lower resourced and nonaccredited facilities, to go longer between mammograms, and to wait longer for a follow-up exam after getting an abnormal result.
  • Breast cancer is not only a women’s disease. In 2021, 2,650 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 530 men will die from it. 

Find more statistics about breast cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Graphics showing historical trends in incidence rates (1975-2017) and death rates (1930-2018) by sex
  • Recent incidence rates (2013-2017) and death rates (2014-2018) by sex, by race and ethnicity, and by state
  • Probability of developing cancer (2015-2017) and dying from cancer (2015-2017)
  • 5-year survival rates (2010-2016) by stage at diagnosis

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.

acs prevention studies

The American Cancer Society's Population Science department includes scientists who work with our large, on-going cancer prevention studies (CPS), such as CPS-II and CPS-3. Several ACS staff scientists have contributed to the work of the United States-based Cancer Risk Estimates Related to Susceptibility (CARRIERS) consortium, which conducts population- and family-based studies of breast cancer. Here's an overview of some of those publications from the last year.

Study of High-Risk Genes May Inform Breast Cancer Screening

The Cancer Prevention Studies have played a role in identifying or validating every known common genetic variant for breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. This was the first large study to look at the prevalence of breast-cancer predisposition genes in the general population.”—Alpa Patel, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Patel's published study.


Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for  answers to help us better understand cancer, including prostate cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Poverty Has a High Cost for Breast Cancer Survivors

“The concept of ‘place-based’ health has become increasingly important in cancer research. Where people live has emerged as a critical component to consider when evaluating their risks for developing cancer, getting adequate treatment for cancer, and short- and long-term survival after a cancer diagnosis.

“Our study highlighted that a singular factor—rural residence—can not accurately evaluate risks for cancer outcomes. Now my research team is seeking to fully examine the characteristics of a person’s environment—including rurality, poverty, access to care, transportation, and community resources­—and how these interplay with personal factors to affect cancer outcomes.”­—Kelly M. Kenzik, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Kenzik's published study.


Improving Chemotherapy Against Aggressive Breast Cancers

“The extracellular matrix acts as a scaffolding around cells, giving them a supportive barrier. It’s a highly dynamic structure that’s constantly remodeled by cell and chemical changes. Normal cells make small amounts of this matrix, but tumor cells make large quantities of it, giving them a stronger barrier against anticancer drugs.

“My lab studies LOX, a well-known protein “remodeler” of the extracellular matrix. We found that blocking this protein seems to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy against triple-negative breast cancer, making LOX a highly attractive therapeutic target for a new drug.” –Ozgur Sahin, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Sahin's published study.


Combo Treatment with New Breast Cancer Drugs Is Promising

“When my mother’s breast cancer recurred shortly after she finished treatment, we were both shocked. We wanted to know why the chemotherapy she endured didn’t work for her when it had worked for so many other women. This question has led me on a career path focused on identifying differences in the genome between patients’ tumors and on understanding how these differences affect response to treatment.

“I work with a wonderful team of scientists in my lab to compare the genomes of hundreds of breast tumors. We have discovered drivers of tumor-cell growth that are unique to a subset of breast cancer patients and that can be targeted with new combinations of existing drugs. We’ve also identified genomic differences between patients who respond to treatment and those whose cancers recur.

“I think my mother would appreciate that her struggle with cancer recurrence has inspired our work to identify new therapies to stop tumor-cell growth and determine which treatment is best for each patient.”—Katherine Varley, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Varley's published study.


New News About Breast Cancer Survivors’ Risk of New Cancers

“Most women live decades after being diagnosed with breast cancer, but some women may develop a new primary cancer years after successful treatment. Currently, there’s limited knowledge about the factors associated with a higher or lower risk for new primary cancers specific to breast cancer survivors, and there’s no established tool that predicts an individual’s risk of developing a new cancer.

“In this study, we found that the risk of developing a new primary cancer varies by the subtype of breast cancer a woman has as well as the age she was when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. This result both highlights the need for tailored recommendations for preventing and screening for new primary cancers in breast cancer survivors based on their specific, personal risks and provides information to help establish such guidelines.” –Hyuna Sung, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Sung's published study.

Future Treatments May Attack Cell-Division “Machinery”

The Holland lab discovered a line of human breast cancer cells that rely on cell structures called centrioles to divide and survive. Centrioles act as the structural core of centrosomes, which have a key role in controlling the accuracy of cell division. Holland’s team found that these breast cancer cells had high levels of the protein TRIM37, which has been shown to control centrosomes.

In this study, Holland used an experimental drug called a PLK4 inhibitor that disrupts proteins that make centrioles. He added the drug to lab-grown breast cancer cells with high TRIM37 levels and found the cells could no longer divide, and most stopped growing or died.

Now Holland’s lab is looking for other, more stable drugs similar to the PLK4 inhibitor and looking to identify more human cancer cell lines that are sensitive to these inhibitors.

See the highlight about Dr. Holland's published study.


Research and Training Grants in Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists and medical professionals who study cancer across the United States. 

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Total Breast Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

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Total Breast Cancer Grant Funding in Effect as of August 1, 2021

acs breast cancer research news