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National Spotlight

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About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a type of cancer where cells in the breast tissue divide and grow without normal control.

It is a widespread and random disease, striking women and men of all ages and races. It is the most prevalent cancer in the world today, with about 1.3 million people diagnosed annually.

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, and at this time, there is no cure.

But there is hope.

Thanks to heightened awareness, early detection through screening, improved treatment methods and increased access to breast health services, people have a greater chance of survival than ever before.

How does breast cancer affect the US population?

  • One in eight women in the U.S will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. ages 40-59.
  • Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths among women in the U.S.
  • The five-year survival rate for breast cancer, when caught early before it spreads beyond the breast, is now 98 percent in the U.S. (compared to 74 percent in 1982).
  • An estimated 207,090 women and 1,970 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the U.S. in 2010.
  • An esitmated 39,840 women and 390 men will die from breast cancer in the U.S. in 2010.
  • A woman diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes, and a woman dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes in the U.S.
  • There are about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors alive in the U.S. today, the largest group of cancer survivors in the country.
  • Approximately 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers in the U.S. are due to inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer genes (less than 1 percent of the general population).
  • Approximately 95 percent of all breast cancers in the U.S. occur in women 40 years of age and older.
  • Recent studies suggest that many women are not following recommended guidelines for mammography screening by having their first screening later than recommended, not having one at recommended intervals or not receiving follow-up of positive screening results. This may lead to more advanced tumor size and stage at diagnosis.


Developed in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health, the site offers a one-stop resource for all the latest information on the disease.