#3: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetimes.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and though you’re probably familiar with efforts to find a cure, you may not realize just how prevalent the disease is. Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of people are affected every year, and that only scratches the surface. Staying on top of statistics about breast cancer and strides in research is crucial if you want to be part of the push for a cure this month and throughout the rest of the year.

The American Cancer Society predicts that over 42,000 women in the United States will die of breast cancer this year. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out, men can also get breast cancer, albeit at a much lower rate, and this goes for cis and trans people alike. If you want to take action this month, you have a lot of options, from supporting survivors and donating to research organizations, to educating yourself. And when it comes down to it, learning about risk factors, preventative measures, and how to practice breast self-awareness is always a good idea too, regardless of your personal risk.

Here are 9 especially important statistics about breast cancer everyone should take into account this month:

More than 279,000 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, with the majority being women, according to the American Cancer Society. To put this number in perspective, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. roughly every two minutes, per the National Breast Cancer Foundation. While certain demographics are at a higher risk for breast cancer, the disease affects women from all backgrounds. The American Cancer Society estimates over 2,500 men will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in 2020.

There is some encouraging news: mortality rates for breast cancer continue to trend downward. Although more people are being diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a study published in A Cancer Journal For Clinicians in 2019, the death rate declined 40% from 1989 to 2017.

1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lives, or approximately 12.5% of women. That means there’s a good chance that someone you’ve met has been affected by the disease.

Over 60% of breast cancer patients are diagnosed before the disease spreads, according to the American Cancer Society — and the 5-year survival rate for localized breast cancer is 99%. Mammograms can detect breast tumors long before you’d feel anything in a self-exam, so regular testing can make a difference.

Even though breast cancer death rates are declining for all races, Black women are still more likely to die from the condition than white women — the survival rate for Black women is about 10% less than it is for white women. According to research from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, this may happen because Black women face more barriers to accessing care.

Lung cancer is the most fatal cancer for women in the U.S. overall, but breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for Hispanic women, even though they are diagnosed with breast cancer at lower rates. Per the American Cancer Society, Hispanic women are less likely to receive timely treatment, which could contribute to survival rates.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, breast cancer is the most common cancer among pregnant people, and it can be hard to detect because pregnancy can cause the size and texture of your breasts to change. Breast cancer in pregnancy can sometimes be safely treated without harming the fetus — it depends on how aggressive the cancer is. If you’re pregnant and notice a breast lump, it’s always a good idea to tell your obstetrician right away.

If you’re older than 50, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 95% of breast cancer patients are older than 40. But even though it’s more common among older women, breast cancer affects women of all ages, which is why it’s important to be aware of any irregularities in your breasts, like dimpling, redness, lumps and nipple discharge. Plus, pre-menopausal breast cancer is on the rise, according to a 2020 study published in The Lancet Global Health.

If your mom, sister, or daughter is diagnosed with breast cancer, you are twice as likely to develop breast cancer yourself, according to the American Cancer Society. Because family history is such a huge risk factor, you should talk to your doctor if a close relative is diagnosed with the disease.

In addition to staying informed, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also an opportunity to help breast cancer survivors and support the search for a cure. If you want to get more actively involved, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has some recommendations, and it’s a great place to start. And lastly, you can take a look at breast cancer research organizations if you’d like to donate.

Studies cited:

DeSantis, C. E., Ma, J., Gaudet, M. M., Newman, L. A., Miller, K. D., Goding Sauer, A., Jemal, A., & Siegel, R. L. (2019). Breast cancer statistics, 2019. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 69(6), 438–451. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21583

Heer, E., Harper, A., Escandor, N., Sung, H., McCormack, V., & Fidler-Benaoudia, M. M. (2020). Global burden and trends in premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer: a population-based study. The Lancet. Global health, 8(8), e1027–e1037. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30215-1

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