4 big takeaways from the latest ACS breast cancer statistics

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has shared a new update on breast cancer statistics in the United States, drawing data from a wide variety of sources. The full report was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians on Oct. 2.

More than 3.8 million women in the United States are currently living with breast cancer, according to the report’s researchers. And approximately 13% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. women (excluding skin cancers) and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women after lung cancer,” wrote Carol E. DeSantis, MPH, surveillance and health services research for the ACS, and colleagues in the report’s introduction.

These are four of the biggest takeaways from the team’s research:

1. Breast cancer incidence rates are up slightly

From 2012 to 2016, the breast cancer incidence rate increased 0.3% per year. For local-stage breast cancer, the increase was 1.1% per year. For regional disease, on the other hand, there was a decline of 0.8% per year. The breast cancer incidence rate is highest in white patients (130.8 per 100,000 women), with black women coming in slightly lower (126.7 per 100,000).

2. Overall, the breast cancer death rate is falling

The breast cancer death rate has dropped 40% from 1989 to 2017, which the researchers said translates to more than 375,000 averted deaths. The drop was 1.9% annually from 1998 to 2011 and 1.3% annually from 2011 to 2017.

“Reasons for the slowing of the decline in breast cancer mortality in recent years are not known, but may reflect widespread diffusion of the major treatment advances of the past several decades, particularly among white women, as well as the increase in incidence,” the authors wrote. “Of note, the past few years have witnessed exciting advances in targeted and immunotherapeutic management of all breast cancer subtypes.”

3. The breast cancer death rate is highest among black patients

Black women have a higher breast cancer death rate (28.4 per 100,000 women) than white women (20.3 per 100,000), good for a difference of 40%. DeSantis et al. noted the disparities are largest in younger patients and shrink as patients get older.

American Indian/Alaska Native (14.6), Hispanic (14.0), Asian/Pacific Islander (11.5) women all have lower breast cancer death rates than black or white women.

4. There is still more healthcare providers can do

“Declines in breast cancer mortality could be accelerated by expanding access to high‐quality prevention, early detection, and treatment services to all women in the United States,” the authors concluded.

Additional data related to this ACS report is available here.