Breast cancer awareness month or National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins on Thursday, October 1 and ends on Saturday, October 31 2020.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with an average lifetime risk of developing breast cancer at 12 percent. There are about 300,000 cases diagnosed each year, with about 15 percent of those (40,000 people) dying from the disease each year.
A clearer way of looking at it and why it’s so serious is that 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer, and 1 woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. Additionally, and contrary to what most people believe, breast cancer doesn’t just end with the female folks, men can develop breast cancer as well (although its rare).
Always keep in mind that screening for breast cancer begins at 40 years old (for average risk women) with annual mammograms, and that catching breast cancer early can save your life.
Why Go Pink for October?
Every October, the color pink shows up in full force. From lapel pins to NFL uniforms, people integrate pink into their wardrobes to support breast cancer awareness month. As an awareness campaign, it’s incredibly successful. But awareness is just the first step. From awareness, public health education and advances in research are possible.
Lydia Komarnicky, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and a member of the board of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, says wearing pink “reminds people of the importance of the month of October and to get a mammogram if you have forgotten. More importantly, I think the pink shirt, ribbon, hat, or merchandise of your choice honors those who have successfully beaten the disease, those who are currently battling the disease, and also reminds us of those that have succumbed to the disease.”
History Behind the Pink Ribbon or Breast Cancer Awareness
Charlotte Hayey, who had battled breast cancer, introduced the concept of a peach-colored breast cancer awareness ribbon. In the early 1990s, 68-year-old Haley began making peach ribbons by hand in her home. Her daughter, sister and grandmother had breast cancer. She distributed thousands of ribbons at supermarkets with cards that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”
Statistics You Should Know
• About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
• In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US, along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
• About 2,620 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2020. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
• About 42,170 women in the US are expected to die in 2020 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 1.3 percent per year from 2013 to 2017. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening.
• For women in the US, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
• As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer in the US. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
• Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2020, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
• In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women. Overall, Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower. Ashkenazi Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer because of a higher rate of BRCA mutations.
• Breast cancer incidence rates in the US began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7 percent from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk. In recent years, incidence rates have increased slightly by 0.3 percent per year.
• A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
• About 5–10 percent of breast cancers can be linked to known gene mutations inherited from one’s 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 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69 percent. 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 percent; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
• About 85 percent 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.
• The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are sex (being a woman) and age (growing older).