A new report from the American Cancer Society finds the breast cancer death rate in the United States continues to drop more than 2 percent per year, a trend that began in 1990, and that over the last 10 years the rate of decline among African American and Hispanic women is similar to the drop among white women.
However, for African-American women, death rates for breast cancer remain 40 percent higher than for white women.
In the United States, the American Cancer Society expects 192,370 women to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, with 40,170 deaths.
The findings are published in Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. The report, published every two years since 1996, provides detailed analyses of breast cancer trends and presents information on known risk factors for the disease, factors that influence survival, the latest data on prevention, early detection, treatment, and ongoing and future research.
"Breast cancer remains a major fear for women living in the U.S. and a major cause of cancer death, but it's important to note that a woman's chances of dying from breast cancer have now been dropping for more than a decade," said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "We've now identified major risk factors for breast cancer, many of which are modifiable. For instance, we've seen a drop in incidence associated with less use of postmenopausal hormones. And while that is gratifying to see, we remain concerned about obesity's potential to offset that drop, and lead to an increase in the incidence of breast cancer in the future."
The reasons for difference in breast cancer survival rates for white women and African American women have been studied extensively. Several studies have documented treatment differences, and others found survival differences decrease when controlling for socio-economic factors, such as lack of insurance coverage. Of all breast cancers diagnosed among African American women, 53 percent are diagnosed at a localized stage, compared to 64 percent among white women.
Other highlights of Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010 include:
Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, accounting for more than 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed.
Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
In January 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available), approximately 2.5 million women living in the U.S. had a history of breast cancer. Most of them were cancer-free, while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment.
Between 2002 and 2003, a sharp decline in breast cancer incidence rates occurred in the U. S., particularly among women aged 50 to 69. This decrease is likely a result of the rapid drop in menopausal hormone use that began in 2002. Breast cancer incidence rates have remained relatively stable since 2003.
While incidence rates have declined for white women, breast cancer incidence rates have remained relatively stable for African American women. The lack of a decline in African Americans may be due to the lack of a significant decrease in mammography screening rates and/or historically lower rates of menopausal hormone use.
Although overall breast cancer incidence rates are lower in African American than white women, African American women have higher incidence rates of distant stage disease; are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors; and are more likely to die from the disease.
From 1997-2006, female breast cancer death rates declined by 1.9 percent per year in non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics/Latinas, 1.6 percent per year in African Americans, and 0.6 percent per year among Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. Death rates have remained unchanged among and American Indians and Alaska Natives..