Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the cells of the breast. Malignant tumors may start small. Over time, however, they grow and begin to invade surrounding tissue and organs.

Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s much more common in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s the most common cancer in American women among women of all races.

In recent years, the prognosis and survival rates for people diagnosed with breast cancer has improved greatly. This is due, in large part, to increased awareness from publicly- and privately-funded research organizations.

Types and Frequency

types of breast cancer

There are several types of breast cancer. Some are common, and others less so.

Invasive ductal carcinoma. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. Eighty percent of breast cancer cases are IDC. In this type, cancer starts in the milk ducts and then spreads to nearby tissue.

Invasive lobular carcinoma. Ten percent of breast cancers are caused by invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). This type develops in lobules, which are the glands that produce milk.

Inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) accounts for slightly more than 1 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. In IBC, the breast’s lymph nodes are blocked, and the breast doesn’t drain properly. IBC doesn’t create a tumor. Instead, it causes your breast to swell and may change the texture of breast skin.

Paget’s disease of the nipple. This rare disease accounts for only about 1 percent of all breast cancer cases. Paget’s disease gets its start in the breasts’ ducts. It affects the skin on your areola and nipple as it grows. It can occur with other forms of breast cancer.

Other types of breast cancer include:

  • lobular carcinoma in situ: This cancer grows in the milk-producing glands but hasn’t invaded surrounding tissue.
  • phyllodes tumor: A very rare type of breast cancer that grows in the breast’s connective tissue.
  • angiosarcoma: This cancer grows on blood or lymph vessels.
breast cancer prevalence


Each year, more than 232,000 American women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. An additional 64,000 women are diagnosed with in situ breast cancer. About 40,000 American women die each year because of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. Lung cancer accounts for the most cancer-related deaths in American women.

Who Gets Breast Cancer?

breast cancer age


Women of all ages can develop breast cancer. However, older women are more likely to have it. In fact, as you age, your risk for breast cancer increases.

Breast cancer isn’t a likely diagnosis for women before the age of 40. Unfortunately, women who are diagnosed with breast cancer before that age have a lower five-year survival rate than women over 40. That’s because younger women are often diagnosed with aggressive types of breast cancer. These cancers often spread faster and are more difficult to treat. They are also likely to recur.

Breast cancer-related deaths are most common among women ages 55 to 64.


Your ethnic heritage may affect your breast cancer risk. Non-Hispanic white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than African-American women.

New Cases of Breast Cancer per 100,000 Women by Race and Ethnicity 
Asian/Pacific Islander93.6
American Indian/Alaska Native79.3

Though African-American women are less likely to be diagnosed than white women, in every age group, they have a lower survival rate than other ethnic groups.

Breast Cancer-Related Deaths per 100,000 Women by Race and Ethnicity 
American Indian/Alaska Native15.5
Asian/Pacific Islander11.5


Five to 10 percent of all women who have breast cancer have the gene mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2. These mutations are more common in Jewish women of Ashkenazi origin.

If you have BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, your lifetime risk for developing breast cancer is between 40 percent and 85 percent. Men with these mutations are also at increased risk for developing the disease.


breast cancer gender

Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it is much more common in women. An estimated 12 percent of women (about 1 in 8) will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. That’s an average of more than 232,000 new cases of breast cancer each year. By comparison, about 2,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men each year. A man’s lifetime risk for breast cancer is 1 in 1,000.

Worldwide Facts

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women. Around the world, however, it is the single leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Mortality rates in the United States have been falling for several years. Unfortunately, that trend is not repeated in other countries. Several regions of the world, including Eastern European and Asian countries, are seeing mortality rates tick up.

Average Five-Year Survival Rates by Country 
United States89%
South Korea79%


In 2010, breast cancer cost $16.5 billion in direct expenses in the U.S. In their lifetimes, patients can expect to spend between $20,000 and $100,000 treating breast cancer. Some estimates put the numbers even higher. In fact, the more advanced the cancer is, the higher the cost to the patient.

As high as the number of direct costs is, indirect costs are even higher. It’s estimated that 97 percent of expenses are related to indirect costs. These costs include lost wages as a result of cancer treatment or cancer-related death.

No matter the numbers, breast cancer is an expensive condition to treat from both a personal and social point of view. The earlier we can detect it, the cheaper the treatment and the lower the cost for everyone.

Survival Rates

breast cancer five year survival rate

If your breast cancer is caught in the early stages, before it has spread, the five-year survival rate is 98.5 percent. If the cancer has metastasized and is in advanced stage, that survival rate falls to 25 percent.

The average five-year survival rate for women diagnosed under the age of 40 is 85 percent. For women 40 and older, the rate increases to 90 percent.

The average five-year survival rate for the rare form of cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer is 77 percent, which is lower than the average. That’s because triple-negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than others. It’s also more likely to recur very quickly after it’s first treated and removed.

The average five-year survival rate for inflammatory breast cancer is 34 percent. That may be because inflammatory breast cancer develops quickly and expands rapidly. By the time the cancer is detected and diagnosed, it’s possible the cancer will have become quite advanced. This reduces a person’s survival chances.

Other Surprising Facts or Information

breast cancer deaths

Each year, 67 percent of women aged 40 or older have a mammogram screening. That number is steady in the past few years, which means women are hearing the word that mammograms may save their lives.

Uninsured women are more likely than insured women to skip their annual screening. Likewise, women who did not complete high school are more likely to not have a mammogram than women who graduated from college.

Seventy-one percent of insured women get mammograms. In uninsured women, the number falls to 68 percent.

Seventy-five percent of college-educated women get mammograms. However, 52 percent of women with a high school education do not get mammograms.

Since 1990, deaths caused by breast cancer have fallen 34 percent.