Breast Cancer Surpasses Lung Cancer as Most Common

According to new information released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), breast cancer has now overtaken lung cancer as the world’s most commonly diagnosed cancer, accounting for 12% of all new annual cancer cases worldwide.

It’s also now the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2021, it’s estimated that over 280,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women, along with nearly 50,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

Why Are Breast Cancer Cases Rising?

WHO attributes the rise in breast cancer diagnoses in the last year to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many women choosing to postpone annual visits or delay ongoing treatment for existing health concerns, doctors are seeing more late-stage diagnoses as patients return for appointments.

While some cancers don’t have screening tests available, breast cancer does — and has a high chance of being curable if diagnosed early and treated effectively.

Better Imaging and Treatments Are Improving Survival Rates

Some good news is that even though the number of diagnosed breast cancer cases is rising, women with aggressive breast cancer are living longer due to better imaging techniques, which help detect breast cancer earlier, and improved treatments.

The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer before age 50 has doubled since the 1990s, from 18% to 36%.

When we look at the changing statistics and data, it’s important to note that people in the U.S. are living longer. That means that there are more older women overall and therefore more women being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Screening Is Still the Best Way to Reduce Your Risk 

Breast cancer screening is the best way to find breast cancer early, before it spreads. The goal is to find cancer before you feel a lump or notice other symptoms.

We recommend that most women receive mammograms every two years starting at age 40. Some may need earlier or more frequent screening — for example, if you have a family history of breast cancer or if you carry a certain genetic mutation. 

To learn more or request a screening, visit

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