Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of columns recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month that will run in each week's Health section through October.
As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, the American Cancer Society said remarkable progress against the disease should not obscure the significant challenges remaining.
Thanks to largely stable incidence rates, improved treatment, as well as earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, a woman's risk of dying of breast cancer dropped 39 percent between the late 1980s and 2015, translating into more than 300,000 breast cancer deaths avoided during that time.
Despite that progress, there's much more to be done. Breast cancer is still the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer. There is still a large racial gap in mortality, with African-American women having higher death rates compared to whites, even as incidence rates are similar.
The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2019 are:
About 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. (5,350 new cases in Missouri.)
About 63,960 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
About 40,920 women will die from breast cancer. (860 in Missouri)
While black and white women get breast cancer at roughly the same rate, the mortality rate is 42 percent higher among black women than white women.
At this time, there are more than 3.1 million people with a history of breast cancer in the United States. (This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.)
Numerous studies have confirmed alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer in women by 7-10 percent for each drink of alcohol consumed per day on average. Women who have two to three alcoholic drinks per day have a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers.
Obesity increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Risk is about 1.5 times higher in overweight women and about two times higher in obese women than in lean women.
Growing evidence suggests women who get regular physical activity have a 10-25 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who are inactive, with stronger evidence for postmenopausal than premenopausal women.
Limited but accumulating research indicates smoking may slightly increase breast cancer risk, particularly long-term, heavy smoking and among women who start smoking before their first pregnancy.
The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances for successful treatment. A mammogram can often show breast changes that may be cancer before a physical symptom. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for finding breast cancer early:Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening mammogram if they wish to do so.
Women ages 45-54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screenings.
Screening should continue as long as a women is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
What the American Cancer Society is Doing
We provide guidance for those wanting to learn about breast cancer, through our screening guidelines as well as information about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship on cancer.org. Our 24/7 helpline, 1-800-227-2345, and patient navigators assist with answering questions and providing needed support.
The ACS invests $67 million in breast cancer research, funding 162 multi-year grants focused on breast cancer prevention, screening and treatment. We've also played a part in many of the scientific advances against breast cancer, including funding early work that eventually led to an understanding of the use of life-saving therapies like tamoxifen and Herceptin.
The American Cancer Society's nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is also working to make fighting breast cancer a national priority. ACS CAN is committed to ensuring all women have the opportunity to receive lifesaving cancer screenings and services. Working in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., ACS CAN advocates for adequate funding for early detection programs that provide access to affordable breast cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women.
To learn more about ACS CAN's advocacy work and to help make fighting breast cancer a priority in your community, visit acscan.org/makingstrides.
Locally, there are several American Cancer Society hosted events during the month of October you can support. At these events, 100 percent of the proceeds benefit breast cancer research, prevention and survivor services.This year, 22 local men have signed on as Real Men Wear Pink of Mid-Missouri candidates. These men have each committed to raising funds and awareness for breast cancer and the American Cancer Society. They will spread awareness by wearing pink everyday in October and each have a fundraising goal of $2,500, and collectively $50,000. You can help support your local Real Men Wear Pink Candidates by visiting realmenwearpinkacs.org/midmo and making a donation.
The 16th annual Pink Ribbon Golf Tournament will be Friday at Oak Hills Golf Center.
The 12th annual Pink Up the Pace 5K run/walk will be Sunday at the North JC Recreation Area Pavilion.
The fourth annual Pretty In Pink Ladies Only Party will be Oct. 17 at the Capital Bluffs Event Center.
For more information or to register/purchase tickets for any of these events, visit the Cole County Pink Events Facebook page, call your local American Cancer Society office at 573-635-4839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.