Health by the Numbers: Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death. Mammography has long been the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer; however, the recommendations for who should be screened, at what age, and how often has become the topic of heated discussion among health professionals, breast cancer advocacy organizations, and survivors.

Here's a look at breast cancer today:

  • 226,870: Number of women who will be diagnosed in 2012.
  • 2,190: Number of men who will be diagnosed in 2012.
  • 23: Percent of all cancers worldwide (1.38 million).
  • 5th: Cause of cancer death worldwide.
  • 33: Approximate percent of cancers diagnosed in the interval between successive mammograms.
  • 25 to 30: Percent of new breast cancers diagnosed as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
  • 80: Percent of DCIS cases that never become invasive even if left untreated.
  • 2000: Estimated number of women who must be screened by mammography to save one life.
  • 20: Percent of false negatives during mammography (screening misses existing cancers), which is due primarily to high breast density.
  • 10: Percent of all breast cancer cases in women with inherited genetic alterations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
  • 16.5 billion: Dollars in breast cancer medical expenditures in 2010.




GLOBOCAN 2008 CANCER FACT SHEET. "Breast Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide in 2008 Summary." Web.

Epstein, Samuel S., Bertell, Rosalie, and Seaman, Barbara. "Dangers and Unreliability of Mammography: Breast Examination Is a Safe, Effective, and Practical Alternative." International Journal of Health Services 31(3) (2001): 605-615. Web.

National Cancer Institute. "Mammograms." Web. 22 September 2010.

Gøtzsche, Peter C., and Nielsen, Margrethe. "Screening for breast cancer with mammography." Cochrane Breast Cancer Group. Web. 19 January 2011.

Esserman, Laura, Shieh, Yiwey, and Thompson, Ian. "Rethinking Screening for Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer." JAMA 302(15) (2009): 1685-1692. Web. October 21, 2009

Nelson, Roxanne. "Impact of Smoking on Breast Cancer Risk Greater Than Thought." Medscape Medical News. Web. 24 May 2011,

National Cancer Institute. "Cancer Costs Projected to Reach At Least $158 Billion in 2020." Web. 12 January 2011.