Breast Cancer Research Highlights

The American Cancer Society helps people with breast cancer in every community.
Our research program has played a role in many of the prevention, screening, and treatment advances that save lives from breast cancer today. And, we continue to fund research to help save even more lives in the future.

acs risk & prevention studies

The American Cancer Society's Population Science department includes scientists who work with our large, on-going cancer prevention studies (CPS), such as CPS-II and CPS-3. Several ACS staff scientists and ACS grantees have contributed to the work of the United States-based Cancer Risk Estimates Related to Susceptibility (CARRIERS) consortium, which conducts population- and family-based studies of breast cancer. Here's an overview of some of those publications from the last year.

New Screening Strategies May Help Women With Genetic Risks


“This study is an example of how simulation modeling can shed important insight on breast cancer prevention by providing estimates of the benefits and harms associated with screening, particularly for the use of MRI to screen women with a higher risk for developing breast cancer due to ATM, CHEK2, and PALB2 variants.”—Jennifer Yeh, PhD, ACS grantee Boston Children's Hospital 

See the highlight about Dr. Yeh's published study.


Inflammatory Breast Cancer—Improving Symptom Awareness

“In the last 2 years, my family experienced cancer first hand, and boy has that grounded me. (She was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and her mother was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) even though none of the known risk factors applied to her.) I felt this was important for me to share publicly, as I consider American Cancer Society extended family.

“So to all who are listening, I’ll say, ‘cancer—or for that matter, any ailment—is personal’. I still have moments when it hits me that despite my work in this area, numerous talks I’ve given, and access to care on rare cancer, a rare cancer went undetected in my family, and another rare cancer was barely detected on time." —Gayanthri R. Devi, PhD, Duke University School of Medicine

Hear the podcast about Dr. Devi's research.


New Way to Calculate Breast Cancer Risk May Affect Screening Plans


“Ultimately, the goal is to put together everything we know about what increases and decreases the risk for developing breast cancer and for surviving it. That ‘everything’ would include genetics, reproductive history, geographic location, socioeconomic factors, exposures to infections and pollutants, medical history, smoking and drinking history, diet, and more. When we can account for all of these factors together, we’ll be able to empower women with personalized, specific strategies to reduce their own risk of getting or dying from cancer.”—Lauren Teras, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Teras' published study.


Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for answers to help us better understand cancer, including breast cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

3D Mini Breast Tumors May Help ID New Cancer Treatments

“The ability to grow patient tumor cells in a dish allows us to accelerate personalized medicine. We can now test a large number of drugs on diverse patient tumors and use genomic analysis to learn which differences in gene expression between patients’ tumors are associated with the response to each drug.”—Katherine Varley, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Varley's published study.


Excess Weight Before 50 Shortens Life with Breast Cancer After 50

“Body weight plays an important role in the development, treatment, and survival of breast cancer. While this study helps us better understand the role body weight before a diagnosis has on survival after a diagnosis of breast cancer, it is difficult to disentangle the multifactorial role of body weight.”  –Mia Gaudet, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Gaudet's published study.


Community Health Centers Aren't Meeting Mammography's Needs

“It is necessary for all health centers to address racial disparities in care and to atone for the decades of medical and public health mistreatment of Black persons, including the consequences of historical redlining. We have a responsibility as medical and public health professionals to reckon with systemic racism, and our own privileges, when developing health promotion and intervention activities.”—Jessica Star, MA, MPH

See the highlight about Jessica Star's published study.


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Grants in Breast Cancer

153 Grants with $71 Million of Funding as of August 1, 2021

We Fund Cancer Researchers Across the US

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

Breast Cancer Statistics in Brief

Breast Cancer Continue to Increase

Since the mid 2000s, slight increases in breast cancer incidence rates may be partly due to more women having obesity, fewer children, or their first baby after 30.

Each year, the American Cancer Society's Surveillance and Health Equity Science (SHES) team analyzes data on cancer in the United States, including breast cancer, as part of its Cancer Facts & Figures report. Every 3 years they publish the Breast Cancer Facts & Figures report. In addition to these educational publications, the ACS journal for clinicians, CA, publishes a "Cancer Statistics" report. The process is led by Rebecca Siegel, MPH.

These publications provide detailed analyses and estimates of breast cancer incidence and mortality trends in the United States. They also have the latest information on breast cancer risk factors, screening, early detection, treatment, and current research.

Key breast cancer statistics in the US include:

  • Breast cancer alone accounts for 30% of newly diagnosed invasive cancers in women. Together, the 3 most common types of cancer in woman—breast, lung, and colorectal—account for 50% of all new cases in women.
  • An estimated 287,850 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2022. Incidence rates have increased slightly—by about 0.5% a year on average—since the mid 2000s. This may be due in part to increased obesity and women having fewer children or having their first child after age 30. 
  • An estimated 12% of women who are screened for breast cancer have an abnormal mammogram, but only 4% of these women have cancer. 
  • About 43,250 women will die from the disease in 2022For women, the death rate declined 43% between 1989 and 2020. 
  • Not all women have benefited equally from this progress. The breast cancer death rate for Black women is 41% higher than in White women despite lower incidence rates. The higher breast cancer death rate in Black women in part reflects the higher number of diagnoses of triple negative breast cancer in Black women. Black women are twice as likely as women of other racial and ethnic groups in the US to be diagnosed with this harder-to-treat cancer.
  • Black women do not have the same access to high-quality cancer care compared to white women. They are more likely to be screened at lower resourced and nonaccredited facilities, to go longer between mammograms, and to wait longer for a follow-up exam after getting an abnormal result.
  • Breast cancer is not only a women’s disease. In 2022, an estimated 2,710 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 530 men will die from it. 

Find more 2022 statistics about breast cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Historical trends in incidence rates 
  • Historical trends in death rates 
  • 5-year survival rates 

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.

acs breast cancer research news