Who Gets Breast Cancer
In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 290,560 new cases of to be diagnosed in the U.S., along with 51,400 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. An estimated 43,780 people will lose their lives to breast cancer.
Anyone with breast can get breast cancer, even men. About 1 in 8 U.S. women and 1 in 833 U.S. men will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lives.
People of all ethnicities get breast cancer. People with different lifestyle habits and from different walks of life develop breast cancer. People with breast cancer can be fit or , vegetarians or meat-eaters, regular exercisers or couch potatoes.
What all people with breast cancer have in common are bad copies, or mutations, in the DNA of their breast cells. DNA makes up the genes of a . It carries a set of directions that tell cells when to grow and how to stop growing.
These mutations can sometimes come from your mother or father at birth. More often, these mutations develop at some point in your life. Some people are more likely to develop a because cancers run in the family. Others who have been exposed to certain things during their lives are more likely to get a mutation. We are still learning about the causes of these mutations and why people get them.
Here are some more facts and statistics about who gets breast cancer.
More Adolescents And Females Take Hormones
Taking extra hormones can cause extra breast-cell growth, which increases breast-cancer risk.
Commonly prescribed hormones linked to a small increase in risk include:
- Hormone replacement therapy, which is often used to reduce menopause symptoms
- Birth control pills used for pregnancy prevention or to treat conditions such as endometriosis
What Happens If You Find Out Youre At Higher Risk
If you and your doctor determine that youre at a higher risk of breast cancer, you can decide together on next steps. Routine breast cancer screening is important for all women, but even more so for those at higher risk, so your doctor may suggest you get screened earlier and more often than other women.
You can also talk to your doctor about options for reducing your risk. Depending on your unique situation, your doctor may recommend either of the following:
- Risk-lowering drugs. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are the only drugs FDA-approved for breast cancer risk reduction in women at higher risk. Both are taken in pill form.
- Preventive surgery. For people with certain gene mutations, having surgery to remove their breasts may dramatically reduce their risk of breast cancer. Surgical removal of the ovaries can also reduce the risk of ovarian and possibly breast cancer for certain people.
Recommended Reading: Can Getting Hit In The Breast Cause Cancer
People With Genetic Mutations
According to the Mayo Clinic, five to ten percent of breast cancers are linked to genetic mutationsBRCA1 and BRCA2passed multi-generationally through families. For example, as we’ve said, these genetic mutations are more common amongst women with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Therefore, this group of women is often tested for the mutation, especially when there is a family history of breast cancer. However, according to a recent study conducted by the genetic testing company 23andMe, researchers found that while 62% carrying a BRCA variant did have Ashkenazi Jewish genetic ancestry, 21% of individuals reported no Jewish ancestry. In the same study, researchers found that 44% of individuals carrying an Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA variant had no family history BRCA-related cancer. Because of this, they likely wouldn’t be able to quality for clinical genetic testing.
Basically, anyone can be a carrier of one of these genetic mutations and not even know it. If you have a family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations, you should definitely have genetic testing doneAngelina Jolie did, for example, and has a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA1. Even if you don’t, it’s not a bad idea to get tested. You can even do it through 23andMe, who tests for three of the most common genetic variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with higher risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
How Race Affects Your Breast Cancer Risk
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. But that’s notthe whole story. Find out how race plays a role in your breast cancerrisk and what steps you can take to reduce your chances of developingthe disease.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. But did you know that your race plays a role in how likely you are to get breast cancer, what type of breast cancer you get, and how likely you are to die from it?
About 1 in 8 women in the United States will get breast cancer in their lifetime. If you look at the rates at which women get breast cancer by race, white women and black women have about the same rate at around 12%. Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic women have about the same rate as each other at about 9%. American-Indian women are at the least risk at about 7%.
“We know that the incidence of breast cancer overall is about the same in white women and black women,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.“However, black women, especially younger women, are more likely to get some of the more serious breast cancers, get them at an earlier age and die more often from the disease.”
Black women are twice as likely to get triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive form of the disease. Triple-negative breast cancers spread more rapidly and are harder to treat than other types of breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is also more likely to come back after treatment.
Don’t Miss: Recurrent Breast Cancer Symptoms
Breaking Down The Numbers
Researchers conducting this study analyzed data from 23,296 patients who were enrolled in 202 different cancer treatment trials run by SWOG between 1989 and 2019, excluding sex-specific cancers .
The cancer treatment options analyzed included chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. But it should be noted that more than two-thirds of patients from the data set received chemotherapy the rest received either immunotherapy or targeted therapy .
It has been understood that women have more toxicity from chemotherapy than men, but almost no research has aimed to understand whether that pattern for novel treatments like immunotherapy or targeted therapies, study leader Joseph Unger, a health services researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., says in a news release about the study from SWOG Cancer Research Network.
We found similar large differences, especially for immune treatments, he adds.
Patients experienced 274,688 side effects, and almost 65% reported that they had experienced at least one severe side effect.
As previously mentioned, it was concluded that women had a 34% higher risk of experiencing severe side effects from all three forms of cancer treatment than men. But particularly for immunotherapy, women had a 49% higher risk of side effects than men.
Differences By Race And Ethnicity
Some variations in breast cancer can be seen between racial and ethnic groups. For example,
- The median age of diagnosis is slightly younger for Black women compared to White women 63 years old).
- Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer. This is thought to be partially because about 1 in 5 Black women with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer – more than any other racial/ethnic group.
- Black women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 40 than White women.
- At every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group.
- White and Asian/Pacific Islander women are more likely to be diagnosed with localized breast cancer than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.
- Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest death rate from breast cancer.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
Recommended Reading: Breast Cancer Stage 2 Symptoms
Example Of The Impact Of A Relative Risk
Using our example of the exercise study above, we can show how absolute risks affect the number of extra cases.
Inactive women have a 25 percent higher risk of breast cancer than active women .
Since older women are more likely to get breast cancer, a lack of exercise has a greater impact on breast cancer risk in older women than in younger women.
First, lets look at the women in the study ages 70-74 years.
The study finds 500 women per 100,000 who are inactive develop breast cancer in one year. This is the absolute risk for women with the risk factor, lack of exercise.
The study also shows 400 women per 100,000 who are active develop breast cancer in one year. This is the absolute risk for women without the risk factor.
The relative risk is 1.25 for women who are inactive compared to those who are active.
Among women ages 70-74, being inactive led to 100 more cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women in one year .
Now lets look at the women in the study ages 20-29.
The study finds 5 women per 100,000 who were inactive developed breast cancer in one year. And, 4 women per 100,000 who were active got breast cancer.
Here again, the relative risk is 1.25.
However, in women ages 20-29, being inactive led to only 1 extra case of breast cancer per 100,000 women .
So, the same relative risk of 1.25 led to many more extra cases of breast cancer in the older women than in the younger women .
Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Breast Cancer
Asian-Americans who have recently immigrated to the U.S. show lower rates of breast cancer than those who have lived in the U.S. for many years. However, for Asian American women born in the U.S., the risk is about the same as that of White women . The breast cancer 5-year relative survival rate has increased significantly for both Black and white Women in the last 40 years. Still, substantial racial gap remains. A 5-year survival rate was observed to be 81% for Black women and 92% for White women in recent years .
Chinese and Japanese women have the highest breast cancer survival rates whereas Black women have the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group . Overall, breast cancer mortality rate is still higher among Black women compared to White women and other ethnic groups . The gap in breast cancer mortality rate among Black women continues to increase. For example, a report between 2000 and 2010 indicated that breast cancer mortality increased from 30.3% to 41.8% among African American women and that at the advanced stage, 5% of breast cancers are detected among White women compared to 8% of breast cancers among Black women .
Don’t Miss: Side Effects Of Chemo For Breast Cancer
Racial And Ethnic Variations In Breast Cancer Incidence And Mortality
Breast cancer does not strike all racial and ethnic groups equally. It varies by race and there is a troubling reality about survival rates for women with breast cancer. White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but Black women are more likely to die from the disease . below shows that in 2014, White women had the highest rate of getting breast cancer, followed by Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women with the lower incidence rate . It also shows that in 2014, Black women were more likely to die of breast cancer than any other group, followed by White, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women with the lower death rate .
What Is Different About Breast Cancer In Younger Women
- Diagnosing breast cancer in younger women is more difficult because their breast tissue is generally denser than the breast tissue in older women, and routine screening is not recommended.
- Breast cancer in younger women may be more aggressive and less likely to respond to treatment.
- Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age are more likely to have genetic mutations predisposing them to breast and other cancers.
- Younger women who have breast cancer may ignore the warning signssuch as a breast lump or unusual dischargebecause they believe they are too young to get breast cancer. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and poorer outcomes.
- Some healthcare providers may also dismiss breast lumps or other symptoms in young women or adopt a “wait and see” approach.
- Breast cancer poses additional challenges for younger women as it can involve issues concerning sexuality, fertility, and pregnancy after breast cancer treatment.
Also Check: Breast Cancer Gene Name
Atypical Hyperplasia Or Atypia
Either atypical hyperplasia or atypia indicates the growth of abnormal cells in the breast. The diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia can be made from a core biopsy or excisional biopsy, and has been correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
The diagnosis of atypia can be made from nipple aspiration, ductal lavage, or fine needle aspiration , and also indicates an increased breast cancer risk. Although these cells are not yet cancerous, they do raise a woman’s risk of eventually developing breast cancer. While biopsies and FNAs are usually reserved for when there is a current indication that a woman might have breast cancer, nipple aspiration and ductal lavage are methods that may help assess a woman’s future risk of breast cancer.
Things You Can Change
Fortunately, there are risk factors for breast cancer that are under your control. These factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle: Women who are not physically active are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
- Obesity: Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Women who take hormones such as estrogen or progesterone for over five years during menopause are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Women who take oral contraceptives may also be at higher risk.
- Alcohol use: A womans risk of breast cancer may increase with the number of alcoholic drinks she consumes.
Also Check: What Is Stage 3 Cancer Mean
What Causes Breast Cancer
Many different things can affect your chances of getting breast cancer.
Theres no single cause. It results from a combination of the way we live our lives, our genes and our environment.
We cant predict who will get breast cancer. And we cant confidently say what might have caused someones breast cancer.
There are, however, some things you can do to lower your chances of getting it.
Vitamin D Levels Are Low
Vitamin D helps regulate normal breast cell growth. For most women, the main source of vitamin D is healthy sun exposure. However, modern life often keeps people indoors. This can lead to decreased levels of vitamin D. In fact, 42% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient.
Read Also: Estrogen Induced Breast Cancer
Staging Multifocal Breast Cancer
Once breast cancer is diagnosed, additional tests are performed to stage cancer. This tells the medical team how advanced the cancer is and whether it has begun to spread to other areas of the body. Understanding the stage of cancer is an important factor when determining the appropriate treatment plan.
Your Race And Ethnicity
White and Black women have the highest risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latina womens breast cancer rates fall in between two major groupings while American Indian and Alaska Native women are on the lowest end of risk.
While white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than Black women overall, they tend to be diagnosed at an older age . Black women have the highest breast cancer rates among women under age 40. Black women make up a higher percentage of triple-negative breast cancer cases.
What to do: If your race or ethnicity places you at higher risk, make sure you follow all screening recommendations to improve your chances of catching cancer early.
Read Also: What Are The Odds Of Surviving Breast Cancer
Common Risks For Breast Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute below are the factors that increase a womens risk of getting breast cancer:
The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is age. A womans risk of developing this disease increases as she gets older. The risk of breast cancer, however, is not the same for all women in a given age group. Research has shown that women with the following risk factors have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.
Genetic alterations : Inherited changes in certain genes increase the risk of breast cancer. These changes are estimated to account for no more than about 10 percent of all breast cancers. However, women who carry changes in these genes have a much higher risk of breast cancer than women who do not carry these changes.
Family history: A womans chance of developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, and/or daughter have been diagnosed with the disease, especially if they were diagnosed before age 50. Having a close male blood relative with breast cancer also increases a womans risk of developing the disease.
Personal history of breast cancer: Women who have had breast cancer are more likely to develop a second breast cancer.
Alcohol: Studies indicate that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.
Long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy: Women who used combined estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy for more than 5 years have an increased chance of developing breast cancer.
What Is A Gene
Each persons DNA contains the code used to build the human body and keep it functioning. Genes are the small sections of DNA that code for individual traits. For example, someone with naturally red hair has a gene that causes his or her hair to be red.
All inherited traits are passed down through genes. Each person has two copies of every gene: one gene from each parent. Since each parent passes down exactly half of their genes to each child, any of the parents genetic traits has a 50% chance of being passed on to their offspring.
Read Also: Signs Of Stage 4 Breast Cancer