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Back to Oncology Diseases

Breast cancer

Updated: August 5, 2005


Carcinoma of the breast is the most common cancer in women in the United States (32%) and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women (15%).

Estimated new cases and deaths from breast cancer (women only) in the United States in 2005:

  • New cases: 211,240.
  • Deaths: 40,410.

The lifetime risk for women of being diagnosed with breast cancer is currently about 1 in 8.


Breast cancer is relatively uncommon in men; the female-to-male ratio is approximately 100:1.


The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Only about 0.8% of breast cancers occur in women < 30 years old and approximately 6.5% develop in women between 30 and 40 years old. Most cases occur in patients over 40 years of age.

Race and ethnicity

White women have a higher overall rate of breast cancer than African-American women; however, this difference is not apparent until after menopause. American Asian and Hispanic women have approximately half the incidence of American Caucasian women. Native-American women extremely low risk of developing breast cancer.

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The incidence of breast cancer is significantly higher in the United States and European countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland than in India, Japan, Thailand, Nigeria. It has been suggested that these trends in breast cancer incidence may be related to dietary fat consumption.

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