Approximately 12.4% of women in the United States develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Frightening as this statistic is, it’s encouraging to look at it from the other point of view that 87.6% of women will never develop the disease.
Multiple factors determine whether a woman will develop breast cancer. One of the most important factors, and least controllable, is her age. As the human body ages, the risk of cell abnormalities rises and the potential for uncontrolled cell growth (cancer) rises with it.
Breast Cancer Risk by Age
The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) has calculated a woman’s breast cancer risk by age. As you can see from the results below, the risk increases sharply with every decade of life:
|Age by Decade||Breast Cancer Rate in women|
|30||1 in 227|
|40||1 in 68|
|50||1 in 42|
|60||1 in 28|
|70||1 in 26|
|80||1 in 30|
|Lifetime||1 in 8|
Future Breast Cancer Risk by Age
Understanding your future risk of developing cancer helps you make the necessary lifestyle changes and incorporate other risk-reduction strategies to help decrease your risk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control calculates a woman’s future risk based on her current age as follows:
|Current Age||In 10 years||In 20 Years||In 30 years|
|30||0.44 percent||1.87 percent||4.05 percent|
|40||1.44 percent||3.65 percent||6.80 percent|
|50||2.28 percent||5.53 percent||8.75 percent|
|60||3.46 percent||6.89 percent||8.75 percent|
|70||3.80 percent||6.16 percent||N/A|
Breast Cancer Risk by Age and Ethnicity
This information is based on average cancer rates in all populations. Your individual breast cancer risk by age depends on many other factors, including your ethnicity.
The median age for developing breast cancer in the general population is 63, with half of all cases developing before age 63 and the other half after this age. This does not accurately portray an African American woman’s breast cancer risk by age. In the African American population, the median age is 59 as African American woman tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at earlier ages.
Know Your Risk Factors
Your breast cancer risk by age is, of course, only one factor. Genetic mutations and lifestyle also influence cancer development. A thorough understanding of your unique risk factors helps you take steps to lower your chance of breast cancer and hopefully will make you one of the 87.6% of women who never develop the disease.
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