7 Little-Known Facts and Statistics about Breast Cancer

Women are raised to be conscious of our breasts, for many reasons. Often, they give us the first symptoms of pregnancy, our menstrual cycles, cancer. Which is why we immediately jump to the fear when there is a lump in our breast. We know that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and that lump could mean little else.

It is because of this that October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, has become the most well-known and supported of all cancer awareness months. In knowing this, we want to share a few surprising breast cancer awareness facts you may not know. 


breast cancer fighter


Physical Activity Fights Breast Cancer

The effects of physical exercise on all types of cancer has been noted by studies listed in the International Journal of Cancer, The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and many more. 

Their conclusions are the same- exercise benefits physical and mental health, reduces the chance of breast cancer, as well as other cancers, and will also help to prevent recurrence. For breast cancer alone, physical activity- including walking, hiking, swimming, bicycling, or even working on household chores- reduces your risk by 12%.

After diagnosis and treatment, simply walking for 3-5 hours a week reduces your risk of recurrence by 40-50%. 

Why Physical Activity Works Against Cancer

Physical activity is good for the body in many ways, affecting you on a biological level. It does so by:

  • lowering insulin and estrogen levels, along with regulating other hormones
  • Prevents or combats obesity
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves the functioning of your immune system
  • Changes your metabolism
  • Combats anxiety and depression

Women with hormone receptor-positive tumors and those who are obese, are the most likely to benefit from physical activity due to hormone and insulin balancing effects. A speedier metabolism also helps to protect your gastrointestinal tract from harmful acids and toxins. 

Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too

While less than 1% of all breast cancer cases are male (approx. 2,670 per year), men with breast cancer have a higher rate of mortality. This is likely due to the rarity, as men aren’t often screened and tend to be diagnosed in later stages.

Survival Rates Are Increasing

Right now, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women, with over 40,000 women out of the more than 252,000 cases dying each year. Women today have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer within their lifetime. That’s an increase from the 1970’s, when your chances of developing breast cancer were 1 in 10. 

While the number of cases has increased, survival rates have as well. In fact, breast cancer statistics show that, if caught in the early stages, your survival rate is 98.8%. In total, the survival rate for breast cancer at five years since diagnosis is 89.9%. Around 62.5% of breast cancer cases are caught in the early stages. 


Breast Cancer Can Be Hereditary With Certain Genes

Inherited changes to genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 occur in around 10% of breast cancer cases, approximately 1 in 400 U.S. citizens. However, these inherited mutations only increase your risk of cancer rather than mark you as an automatic patient. 

Luckily, even with this low possibility of developing cancer, there are measures that can be taken against these genes. According to an abstract in Science Daily, the BRCA-1 cancers can be shut off, or altogether eliminated with the tiny molecules MiR223-3p. There is hope in science, and with that, chances of survival and prevention rise. 

Most Breast Lumps Are Benign

We’ve touched on this before- the automatic jump to the cancer conclusion at the first sign of a breast lump. Thing is, most breast lumps are benign. In fact, 80% or 8 out of 10 breast lumps are non-cancerous. 

When this happens, the lumps are likely identified as:

  • Fibrocystic breast changes
  • Cysts
  • Fibroadenomas
  • An infection/ swollen lymph nodes

Breast Cancer Risk Increases With Age

With age comes a decreased ability of our bodies to repair our bodies, particularly any genetic damage (mutations). These genetic mutations are what cause cancer and allow it to spread throughout our bodies. 

This is why our breast cancer risk increases as we age. So, while women under 50 have a risk of 12.8%, 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancer cases are in women over the age of 55.

Beyond the fact that age makes it more difficult to repair damage to our cells, there are other facts that add to the risk for older women- depression, anxiety, opioid use, reduced physical activity, and breast tissue changes. 

That last risk factor is a more recent discovery, but scientists have determined that the composition of a woman’s breast tissue is a risk factor. According to a study reported in Medical Xpress, changes to the tissue can allow “multipotent progenitors—cells with the ability to develop into more than one type of cell—build up in the body.”



The Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Debuted in 1992 

In the same year that the survival rate of breast cancer began increasing, the pink ribbon debuted for breast cancer awareness. The pink ribbon wasn’t a random decision. In fact, the history of awareness ribbons can be traced back decades. 

In 1979, a man was taken hostage in Iran. His wife, in a show of her desire for his return home, began tying yellow ribbons to trees in her front lawn. From then, yellow ribbons were used during the early 90’s for soldiers fighting in the Gulf War.

Around the same time, AIDS activists used the inspiration of the ribbons to create their own red version for victims of AIDS. This is where the iconic loop came from. 

By 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation was distributing pink ribbons to breast cancer survivors. Then in 1992, Self magazine ran an issue dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and began distributing the pink ribbons throughout NYC stores. So, while the foundation had been using the color pink for their breast cancer awareness hats and logo, and ribbons for their own awareness programs, this is when the ribbons finally became synonymous with the outreach. 

There are many more breast cancer facts to know, and that is exactly why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important. Share this with your friends and family to help the cause and spread the hope. 

  1. Article 2 - [Physical Activity Fights Breast Cancer — “It’s clear that exercise benefits physical and mental health, but the surprising truth is that exercise can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer for some women.”]

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