The Breast Cancer Death Rate Has Dropped By Nearly 40%

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
Deaths from breast cancer have decreased in the last 20 years — but there's still work to be done.
The American Cancer Society released a report on Tuesday that stated that the rate of breast cancer deaths has decreased by almost 40% in the U.S. between 1989 and 2015. That decline, the ACS says, translates to 322,600 lives being saved.
The decreased death rate, researchers said, could be attributed to an improvement in treatments as well as early detection.
The report also found that in some states, Black and white women had the same breast cancer mortality rates. While researchers are careful not to draw too many conclusions from that finding, it could indicate that some states are closing the gap in the racial disparities of breast cancer mortality.
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Still, Lee Schwartzberg, MD, a medical oncologist at West Cancer Center, told the Washington Post that the disparity still "is not acceptable." As the report notes, Black women are twice as likely as white women to develop triple negative breast cancer, which can be more difficult to treat than other forms of breast cancer.
Even with the decline, however, Black women still have the highest death rates from breast cancer across the nation. Not to mention, breast cancer remains the most common cancer among women in the U.S., and is the second-leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer.
While the overall decline in mortality rates is promising, the report estimates that over 250,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. in 2017, and 40,000 of those diagnoses are expected to be fatal.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more stories about detecting, treating, or living with breast cancer, click here.
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