Breast Cancer Mortality Rates
A note of Caution for Breast Cancer Mortality Rates
Recent Facts and Figures: New Cases and Mortality Rates
The good news is that the mortality rate from breast cancer has progressively and steadily declined over the years.
However, the National Cancer Institute estimates that around 252,710 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 in the US. In addition, in 2017 it is estimated that around 40,610 American women will die of breast cancer.
Between the years of 2007 and 2013, the 5 year survival rate after a breast cancer diagnosis was 89.7%. (National Cancer Institute SEER statistics).
Recent statistics show that between the years of 2010 and 2014 there were 124.9 (per 100,000) new cases of breast cancer. In comparison to this there were 21.2 (per 100,000) deaths.
New Cases and Mortality Rates: Trends
As we can see from our above line graph showing breast cancer trends over the years, the death rate from breast cancer has steadily declined.
However, since 2007 the death rates in younger women (under 50) have remained stable, whilst for older women they have continued to decrease further.
For a full analysis on breast cancer incidence rates and a more in-depth look at the trends please see our new post here.
Recent studies suggest the periodic rise in new incidences combined with the steady decline of breast cancer deaths reflect the increase of screening mammography, better understanding of tumor biology and improvements in treatment.
One of the most important prognostic factors is the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Hence, the widespread adoption of screening mammography led to breast cancers being detected at an earlier stage when treatment is effective. Furthermore, advances in treatment have added to the decline in mortality rates.
Estimated Number of Deaths in the US from Breast Cancer (2017)
The above bar chart shows the estimated number of female deaths from breast cancer, according to age group, in 2017.
These estimated figures are from the American Cancer Society based on data gathered between 2000 and 2014 from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Due to the statistical methods involved to obtain the projected mortality estimates, this graph should not be compared with other mortality rates.
Age at Diagnosis and mortality rates
In the past younger women tended to have a poorer prognosis.
One medical study examined 4,453 women with breast cancer over a 30 year period, all treated at the same center. The study showed that in general, women under the age of 40 years had a statistically poorer prognosis.
Furthermore, older ladies, over the age of 80 years at diagnosis also had a poorer prognosis.
Percentage of New Breast Cancer Cases by Age (2010 – 2014)
Percent of Breast Cancer Deaths by Age (2010 – 2014)
According to the SEER statistics, between the years of 2010 and 2014, the average age of diagnosis of breast cancer was 62 years. Furthermore, breast cancer in women is most often diagnosed between the ages of 55 and 64 years.
From the same statistics, the percent of women who die from breast cancer is also highest between the ages of 55 and 64. The average age of death from breast cancer for women is a little higher at 68 years.
Breast Cancer Survival Rates by Age (2000 to 2005)
Global Breast Cancer Mortality Rates
In 2011 over 508,000 women died of breast cancer worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although breast cancer is often associated with the developed world almost half of all breast cancer cases and 58% of deaths occur in less developed countries.
In 2012 the top 20 countries for breast cancer survival rates are in the table below taken from World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF). The ranking of the countries is based upon the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer who were alive 5 years later. Figures are based on breast cancer survivors per 100,000 adult women.
|9||United States of America||970,693|
to be ranked #1 for 5 year breast cancer survival.
A little bit more about Global Breast Cancer Mortality Rates
As we can see from the table above, in 2012 Belgium had the highest rate of survivors 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis.
As mentioned earlier, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, 3.2 million women survived for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis in developed countries. However, this rate drops to 3 million in less developed countries.
The lowest rate of 5 year survival occurred in Africa and Asia and the highest rates of survival were Northern America and Europe.
Other factors regarding Breast Cancer Mortality Rates
This post has looked at general up-to-date statistics on breast cancer mortality rates. Although we have looked at age on diagnosis here, whether this is an independent factor for prognosis remains controversial.
Other factors that are important regarding mortality rates are stage, tumor type and race/ethnicity.
I will not be giving more information on other factors here, as we have detailed up-to-date posts on these topics … and here they are:-
- Breast Cancer Survival Rates for all types of breast cancers
- Survival of Breast Cancer based on Stage
- Incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer: Differences according to ethnicity.
- Prognostic factors and Survival Rates for Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)
More on Global Differences in Breast Cancer Mortality
It has been suggested that when survival rates are compared in different parts of the world, the main factor affecting mortality is the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis.
According to a 2008 medical study, the breast cancer survival rates across all ages is about 80% in North America, Western Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, and Australia.
However, this figure drops to less than 60% in poorer countries like Brazil and Slovakia.
Breast cancer survival rate in the UK is slightly less than the European and North American average. It is between 70% and 79%.
In Canada, the five year survival rate for breast cancer is estimated at about 86%, and has actually increased by about 25% since 1986.
Number of new breast cancer cases and deaths per year (older data).
Statistically the number of deaths due to breast cancer is about 20% to 25% of new cases annually.
However, mortality rates due to breast cancer have been decreasing since the early 1990’s, especially amongst the 50’s age range.
Earlier Table of New Cases of Breast Cancer and Deaths per year by Country (2000 – 2005)
|New Cases per year||Deaths per year||Year|
This could be due to a variety of factors, including access to and affordability of health care and better treatment options.
Survival rates are also affected by how many people get screening mammograms. Furthermore, survival results will also be affected by whether the population is generally younger or older.
Mortality rates per 100000 women per year, by 10 year age group
The relative mortality rate from breast cancer per 100000 women is given below.
On a relative basis, the largest rate of change occurs between the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups. However,the increase in mortality rates is not as great for the 60-69 group, but more or less doubles for the 70-79 and 80+ age groups.
The rate of breast cancer mortality has decreased by about 25% since the early 1990s, and the main reason for this decline is participation in organized breast cancer screening programs.
Breast cancer mortality has seen the greatest decline in younger women. Another area of decline in deaths is women with estrogen and progesterone receptor positive tumors. This is probably due to improvements in adjuvant systemic therapy.
Probability of New Breast Cancer Cases and Relative Mortality Risk Table
|10-year age group||Probability of new cases, and estimated chance number||Relative mortality risk and Estimated chance number|
|breast cancer||all causes|
|30-39||.44%||1 in 229||–||–||–|
|40-49||1.46%||1 in 68||.35%||1 in 291||2.7%||1 in 39|
|50-59||2.73%||1 in 37||.65%||1 in 155||6.6%||1 in 16|
|60-69||3.82%||1 in 26||.9%||1 in 112||15%||1 in 7|
|70-79||–||–||1.15%||1 in 87||34%||1 in 3|
Five year Breast Cancer Survival rate according to Age Groups
The five year relative survival from breast cancer, as demonstrated in a Canadian study, remains consistent throughout most age groups.
Women in their 40’s through 70’s average about an 80% to 85% five year survival after breast cancer diagnosis.
Whereas women in their 80’s and 90’s tend to survive breast cancer beyond five years about 78% of the time.
However, younger women in the 15 to 39 year age group are actually less likely to survive beyond 5 years, with a survival rate of about 73%.
Possible Reasons why younger Women may have a poorer Prognosis
Younger women tend to be physically stronger and healthier at diagnosis. So, why are they less likely to survive for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis than older ladies?
One explanation may be that it is quite rare for younger women to present with palpable breast lumps. Doctors used to be more likely to consider a lump a benign mass and thus, there may be a time delay before diagnosis.
Due to the delay in breast cancer diagnosis (and lack of screening at this age) the cancer may present at a later stage.
Furthermore, a younger woman’s ovaries also produce more hormones. This causes faster tumor growth. In addition, younger women have pregnancies that can interrupt their chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Mortality risk from Breast Cancer compared with all causes
It is of some reassurance to note that the mortality rate of breast cancer is proportionally very low compared to the incidence rates.
Most breast cancers are curable. However, the most significant prognostic factor in breast cancer is a late stage of breast cancer at the time of diagnosis.
The relative mortality risk of breast cancer (USA), compared to deaths from all causes.
The risk of death from breast cancer, for women aged 40-49, is 0.35%, or 1 in 291. By comparison, the risk for death from all causes in about 2.7%, or 1 in 39.
50-59 year olds have a mortality risk from breast cancer of about 0.65 %, or 1 in 155, compared to an all-cause mortality risk of 6.6%, or 1 in 16.
Women aged 60-69 have approximately a 0.9% chance of mortality from breast cancer, or 1 in 112. This compares to a mortality risk from all causes at about 15% or 1 in 7.
For women over 70 the risk of death due to breast cancer is about 1.15% or 1 in 87, whilst the risk of death from all causes is about 34%, or 1 in 3.
So, whilst the chances of a woman developing some form of breast cancer during her entire lifetime are relatively high at approximately 1 in 8 or 1 in 9, breast cancer does not account for high mortality rates compared to death by all causes.
This means that for women aged 40-49, that death due to breast cancer accounts for perhaps 15% to 16% of all deaths.
For those aged 50-59 breast cancer accounts for perhaps 14% of all mortality rates. For women aged 60-69 breast cancer is about 10% of the overall mortality risk, whilst for women over 70 the risk of mortality due to breast cancer is only about 5%.
- American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2015-2016. Atlanta:
American Cancer Society, Inc. 2015.
- Toriola AT, Colditz GA. (2013) Trends in breast cancer incidence and mortality in the United States: implications for prevention. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Apr;138(3):665-73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23546552
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