According to a report issued by the American Cancer Society, breast cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline by more than 2% per year. This and other breast cancer statistics were published in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010.

Breast cancer mortality rates began to decline in the U.S. in 1990, and the most recent statistics suggest that this decline is continuing. Nevertheless, an estimated 40,170 women will die of breast cancer in 2009, making breast cancer the second leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer) in U.S. women. Furthermore, although declines in mortality have been observed in African-American, Hispanic, and White women, African-American women continue to have higher rates of death from breast cancer than White women.

Other breast cancer statistics that were published in the report include the following:

  • An estimated 192,370 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. This makes breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer (other than skin cancer) in U.S. women.
  • The median age at breast cancer diagnosis in the United States was 61 years. This means that half the women diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 61.
  • An estimated 2.5 million women living in the United States have a history of breast cancer.
  • A sharp drop in new diagnoses of breast cancer occurred between 2002 and 2003. This is likely to be due at least in part to a reduction in use of postmenopausal hormones.

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The declines in breast cancer mortality are thought to be due to improvements in treatment as well as early detection. For women at average risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends annual screening mammography beginning at age 40. Women at high risk of breast cancer may need to begin screening at a younger age and may be screened with both mammography and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Modifiable factors that increase the risk of breast cancer include postmenopausal obesity, physical inactivity, consumption of two or more alcoholic beverages per day, and use of postmenopausal hormones.

Reference: American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Available at: Accessed September 30, 2009.

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