Breast Cancer Awareness

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Breast cancer is one of the major cancer types for which new immune-based cancer treatments are currently in development. This page features information on breast cancer and immunotherapy clinical trials for breast cancer patients, and highlights the Cancer Research Institute’s role in working to bring effective immune-based cancer treatments to people with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Each year, breast cancer accounts for 12 percent of all cancers diagnosed globally, and it is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women. In 2012 (the last year for which data are available), there were approximately 1.68 million new diagnoses worldwide and 520,000 deaths. Approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives; for men, the lifetime risk is about 1 in 1,000.


The overall 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is now 90%—a dramatic improvement over the early 1960s when the rate was 63%. When considered by stage, the 5-year survival rates are 99% for localized disease and 84% for regionally advanced disease that may have spread to neighboring lymph nodes. For patients with stage 4 disease with distant metastases, the 5-year survival rate drops to 24%.

Increased risk for breast cancer is associated with a personal or family history of the disease and inherited genetic mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes; these include BRCA1 and BRCA2 and other less common inherited gene mutations. An inherited predisposition to develop breast cancer accounts for approximately 5%-10% of all breast cancer cases, but is rare in the general population (less than 1%). Women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have an estimated 45% to 65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Other known risk factors include obesity, use of MHT (a hormone therapy that combines progestin and estrogen), high breast tissue density, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.

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