Decades-long Drop in Breast Cancer Death Rate Continues

October 30, 2019 —
Mortality decline has slowed in recent years. Breast cancer now leading cause of cancer death for black women in six states.

A decades-long decline in the breast cancer death rate continues, but has begun to slow in recent years, while breast cancer incidence rates continue to inch up.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer (excluding skin cancers) diagnosed among U.S. women and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women after lung cancer. In 2019, approximately 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among U.S. women, and 41,760 women will die from the disease.

The overall breast cancer death rate has decreased consistently since 1989, attributed both to improvements in early detection (through screening as well as increased awareness of symptoms) and treatment for a total decline of 40 percent through 2017. As a result of this decline, 375,900 breast cancer deaths have been averted in U.S. women through 2017.

The latest data shows that the pace of the mortality decline has slowed in recent years — from a drop of 1.9 percent per year during 1998 through 2011 to 1.3 percent per year during 2011 through 2017, largely driven by the trend in white women. Consequently, the black-white disparity in breast cancer mortality that widened over the past three decades has remained stable since 2011. Nevertheless, in the most recent period (2013-2017), the breast cancer death rate was 40 percent higher in black women versus white women, despite slightly lower incidence rates. This disparity is magnified among black women under 50, among whom the death is rate double that of white women.

In the most recent 5-year period (2013-2017), the breast cancer death rate declined by 2.1 percent per year in Hispanics/Latinas, 1.5 percent per year in blacks, 1 percent per year in whites, and 0.8 percent per year in Asians/Pacific Islanders, and was stable in American Indians/Alaska Natives. However, mortality rates are no longer declining for black women in Colorado and Wisconsin and for white women in Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia.

To find out more about breast cancer detection, go to, or call to schedule your annual screening mammogram at (509) 455-4455.

Early detection saves lives.