An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By City of Hope | October 12, 2016


Breakthroughs - breast health article image Feel free to download our breast health infographic for education purposes.


October may be National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but breast cancer awareness should really be top-of-mind throughout the year. For American women, the disease is the second most common and deadly form of cancer. While mortality rates have been dropping for nearly 30 years due to advances in awareness, screening and treatment, breast cancer still claims around 40,000 women annually, while more than 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

With that in mind, drawn from the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, here are the most important symptoms, statistics, risk factors and risk reducers worth remembering all year long.

Breast cancer facts:

  • About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. (Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.)
  • Only certain skin cancers are more common than breast cancer in American women.
  • An estimated 232,670 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year.
  • Two of three breast cancers are found in women ages 55 and older.
  • An estimated 2.8 million breast cancer survivors currently live in the U.S.
  • Breast cancer survivorship has tripled over the past 60 years.

Risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Gender: A woman is 100 times more likely than a man to develop breast cancer. Just over 2,000 American men are diagnosed each year.
  • Age: The risk of developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages, with half of all invasive breast cancers discovered in women older than 60. (The average age that women are diagnosed is 61 years old.)
  • Genetics and family history: About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning they come from inherited gene mutations, and the risk is higher among women who have close blood relatives with the disease.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk.
  • Race: Overall, Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die from it.
  • Breast density: Having dense breasts — meaning, more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue — quadruples a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.

How to reduce breast cancer risk:

  • Know your family history. Five to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary, so a woman with a family history of breast cancer should speak with her doctor about whether or not to undergo additional screening to improve the chances of early detection.
  • Eat well. Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily, limiting processed foods and red meats. Choose whole grains. Additionally, researchers have discovered that superfoods, such as pomegranates, grape seed extract and blueberries, have powerful breast cancer-fighting agents.
  • Get screened. Stay current with annual mammograms and clinical breast exams, beginning at age 40.
  • Watch weight. Women who gain 21 to 30 pounds after age 18 are 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not gain more than five pounds.
  • Exercise. Women who walk briskly for 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week have an 18 percent lower risk than women who are inactive.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day. Drinking more than that increases the risk of breast cancer by 1.5 times compared to someone who does not drink.

Possible breast cancer symptoms:

  • Swelling of all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge


Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope. To become a patient or get a second opinion, visit our website or call 800-826-HOPE (4673).


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