Medical researchers are working to find better ways to detect, prevent, and treat breast cancer, in order to educate on how to implement the best quality of life for patients and survivors. According to recent studies, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime and in 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. About 43,600 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2021 from breast cancer. Death rates have been steady in women under 50 since 2007 but have continued to drop in women over 50. The overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1% per year from 2013 to 2018. The decrease is attributed to treatment advances and earlier detection through screening. Breast cancer is mostly found in women, but men can get breast cancer too and studies show about 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the United States is found in a man that is identified as Invasive ductal carcinoma. About 2,650 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2021. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 833.
About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from the mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
Reducing Risk for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits — such as limiting alcohol and staying physically active. Understand what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk.
Based on your treatment options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors could include a breast surgeon or oncologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and plastic surgeon.
There are extensive trials and studies that are currently being conducted as this type of research takes years to validate accurate data and it is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with breast cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. Here are treatment options and studies to date:
Estrogen blocking drugs are typically used to help treat breast cancer, but some might also help prevent it. Tamoxifen and raloxifene have been used for many years to prevent breast cancer. More recent studies with another class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors (exemestane and anastrozole) have shown that these drugs are also very effective in preventing breast cancer.
Other clinical trials are looking at non-hormonal drugs for breast cancer reduction. Drugs of interest include drugs for diabetes like metformin, drugs used to treat blood or bone marrow disorders, like ruxolitinib, and bexarotene, a drug that treats a specific type of T-cell lymphoma.
Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's publications, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and Cancer Facts & Figures 2020; the ACS website; and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program (sources accessed January 2021). Mayo Clinic.