National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Breast Cancer Deaths Down Sharply Over Past 20 Years

Breast Cancer Deaths Down Sharply Over Past 20 Years

February 5, 2015 — Deaths from breast cancer declined by 34% from 1990 to 2011, according to the most recent government statistics, USA Today reports.

Specifically, the number of breast cancer deaths decreased from 33 per 100,000 women in 1990 to 22 per 100,000 women in 2011. Experts believe the decline has continued since 2011.

The American Cancer Society said the decrease means that more than 200,000 deaths were averted.

Reasons for Decline

American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley said improvements in breast cancer treatment, including the development of targeted chemotherapy and the estrogen blocker Tamoxifen, are the main reason for the decline in mortality.

Susan G. Komen Health and Mission Program Education Managing Director Susan Brown also said treatment is becoming more targeted and individualized as scientists gain greater understanding of tumors.

Further, Brawley noted that breast cancer awareness has increased and that mammography rates have improved. Between 2005 and 2010, 67% of women ages 40 and older received a mammogram, up from 29% in 1987, according to USA Today.

However, Brawley said future declines in the mortality rate might not be as large, in part because certain types of breast cancer remain difficult to treat (Ungar, USA Today, 2/3).