National Breast Cancer Coalition

Looking at Breast Cancer By the Numbers

Breast cancer incidence/mortality

  • 2013 estimated new cases of invasive breast cancer in the U.S.: 234,580 (all); 232,340 (women); 2,240 (men)
  • 2013 estimated new cases of in situ breast cancer in the U.S.: 66,640
  • Lifetime risk: 1 in 8
  • 2013 estimated breast cancer deaths: 40,030 (all); 39,620 (women); 410 (men)
  • 2010 global breast cancer deaths: 425,000

Breast cancer incidence accounts for 29% of all cancer in women and 14% of cancer deaths in women.

Incidence has risen during the past 20 years from 1 in 11 to 1 in 8, now leveling off; mortality has declined slightly but a key point is incidence of stage IV breast cancer—the cancer that is lethal—has stayed the same; screening and improved treatment has not changed this.

Why numbers make it seem like we’ve made more progress than we have:

Mortality vs. Survival

Mortality numbers tell the story more precisely than survival numbers, and screening skews the survival numbers. The more we screen, the more we diagnose and treat women with breast cancers that would not have been a threat to their lives (some DCIS, other slow growing invasive breast cancers, and others that are dormant or regressive); so it looks like survival for early stage breast cancer is 98 percent. This is only a 5-year survival number—and includes the 20-30 percent of women who will have recurrence and may die of the disease later. For Stage II and III, one-half to two-thirds will develop metastatic disease within five years and they are included in the 5-year survival statistic. Women die of metastatic disease, not primary breast cancer.

We’ve made some progress

  1. We know breast cancer has different subtypes—at least five have been identified, and there are probably more—with different causes, risk factors, prognoses, and treatment.
  2. We’ve developed better treatments: chemotherapy, hormonal, targeted therapy, which have had an impact on mortality; better quality of life: lumpectomy vs. mastectomy; sentinel node biopsy (SNB).
  3. There have been significant increases in research funding and more knowledge of biology of breast cancer.
  4. There is greater awareness of breast cancer and more screening.

But no success in ending breast cancer: time to change the conversation to…      

  1. Change the focus to the overarching question about how to end breast cancer.
  2. Set a deadline—it changes everything and creates a sense of urgency and focus.
  3. Direct funding to where it will make the biggest impact and be strategic:
    • Focus on primary prevention and preventing metastasis to save lives.
    • Bring together innovators, key stakeholders and be advocate-driven.
  4. Hold ourselves and everyone accountable through annual progress reports; don’t be afraid of looking at the real evidence and what it means—even if it’s uncomfortable.
  5. Measure real progress—significant reductions in incidence and mortality—not how many screened or 5-year survival rates.
  6. Support Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.