Trends in breast cancer by race and ethnicity: update 2006

CA Cancer J Clin. May-Jun 2006;56(3):168-83. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.56.3.168.


In this article, the American Cancer Society (ACS) provides estimates of new breast cancer cases and deaths in 2006 and describes trends in incidence, mortality, and survival for female breast cancer in the United States. These estimates are based on incidence data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, which includes state data from NCI and the National Program of Cancer Registries of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics for the most recent years available (1975 to 2002). This article also shows trends in screening mammography. Approximately 212,920 new cases of invasive breast cancer, 61,980 in situ cases, and 40,970 deaths are expected to occur among US women in 2006. As previously reported, breast cancer incidence rates increased rapidly among women of all races from 1980 to 1987, a period when there was increasing uptake of mammography by a growing proportion of US women, and then continued to increase, but at a much slower rate, from 1987 to 2002. Trends in incidence vary by age, race, socioeconomic status, and stage. The continuing increase in incidence (all stages combined) is limited to White women age 50 and older; recent trends are stable for African American women age 50 and older and White women under age 50 years and are decreasing for African American women under age 50 years. Although incidence rates (all races combined) are substantially higher for women age 50 and older (375.0 per 100,000 females) compared with women younger than 50 years (42.5 per 100,000 females), approximately 23% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women younger than 50 years because those women represent 73% of the female population. For women age 35 and younger, age-specific incidence rates are slightly higher among African Americans compared with Whites but then cross over so that Whites have substantially higher incidence at all later ages. Among women of all races and ages, breast cancer mortality rates declined at an average rate of 2.3% per year between 1990 and 2002, a trend that reflects progress in both early detection and treatment. However, death rates in African American women remain 37% higher than in Whites, despite lower incidence rates. Although, in national surveys, approximately 70% of women age 40 years and older report having had a mammogram in the past 2 years, rates vary by race/ethnicity and are markedly lower among women with lower levels of education, without health insurance, and in recent immigrants. Furthermore, a recent study suggests that the true percentage of women having regular mammography is lower than reported in survey data. Encouraging patients age 40 years and older to have annual mammography and clinical breast exam is the single most important step that clinicians can take to reduce suffering and death from breast cancer. Clinicians should also ensure that patients at high risk of breast cancer are identified and offered appropriate referrals and treatment. Continued progress in the control of breast cancer will require sustained and increased efforts to provide high-quality screening, diagnosis, and treatment to all segments of the population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • American Cancer Society
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prevalence
  • Registries
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Class
  • United States / epidemiology