The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

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What is triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)?

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is:

How common is TNBC?

About 15% to 20% of all breast cancers are TNBC or basal-like tumors [42-43,47-49].

Although anyone can get TNBC, it tends to occur more often in [47-53,107]:

TNBC may also be more common among Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women [49,55-56].

BRCA1 inherited gene mutations and TNBC

Most breast cancers related to a BRCA1 inherited gene mutation are triple negative and basal-like [50,52].

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends people diagnosed with TNBC get genetic testing [62].

Learn more about genetic testing after a breast cancer diagnosis.

TNBC and breast cancer recurrence

TNBC is often aggressive.

Early TNBC is more likely than early ER-positive breast cancer to recur (come back) within the first 5 years after diagnosis [45,48].

After about 5 years, the risk of TNBC recurrence is low [45,48].

Treatment of early TNBC

Early TNBC is often aggressive, but it can be treated effectively. It’s usually treated with some combination of:

  • PARP inhibitor therapy
    • Only used as part of treatment for some people who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

Learn about emerging areas in treatment for early breast cancer.

Treatment of metastatic TNBC

Metastatic TNBC is treated with chemotherapy.

Some people with metastatic TNBC may also get other drug therapies in addition to chemotherapy, including:

  • Immunotherapy
    • Only used to treat some TNBC that are PD-L1-positive
  • PARP inhibitor therapy
    • Only used as part of treatment for some people who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited gene mutation

Learn about emerging areas in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

Learn about the latest research and advances in treatment for those living with triple negative metastatic breast cancer in Susan G. Komen®’s January 2023 MBC Impact Series webinar.

Clinical trials for people with TNBC

Clinical trials are studying treatment for early and metastatic TNBC.

After discussing the benefits and risks with your health care provider, we encourage you to consider joining a clinical trial.

Susan G. Komen® Patient Care Center

If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, the Patient Care Center can help. Contact the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877-465-6636 or email

Se habla español. in collaboration with Komen offers a custom matching service to help find clinical trials for people with early TNBC and clinical trials for people with metastatic TNBC.

Learn more about clinical trials

Learn more about what Komen is doing to help people with breast cancer find and participate in clinical trials.

Molecular subtypes of breast cancer, including triple negative/basal-like tumors, are sometimes used in research settings. Learn about molecular subtypes of breast cancer.

Race, ethnicity and TNBC

Read our blog, Inequities in Care and Treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.


Prevalence shows the proportion of people who have breast cancer (or other health condition) at a given point in time. The prevalence of TNBC differs by race and ethnicity.

Triple negative tumors appear to be more common among non-Hispanic Black and African American women (especially before menopause) compared to women of other ethnicities [46-49,107].

For example, from 2016 to 2020 (most recent data available), about 24 non-Hispanic Black women per 100,000 women were diagnosed with TNBC compared to about 12 non-Hispanic white women per 100,000 women [108].

TNBC may also be more common among Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women [49,55-56].

However, most cases of TNBC cases are in white women. This is because the total number of white women diagnosed with breast cancer is much higher than the total number of women of other races and ethnicities diagnosed with breast cancer.

Learn more about numbers versus rates when looking at breast cancer statistics.

Risk factors

Although the reasons for racial and ethnic differences in rates of TNBC are not clear, some factors may play a role [58].

Compared to white and non-Hispanic white women, Black and African American women tend to [58,65-68]:

Each of these factors is linked to a small increased risk of getting TNBC [58,65-68].

Certain reproductive and lifestyle factors may be linked to a lower risk of ER-positive breast cancers, but not ER-negative breast cancers, including TNBC.

For example, non-Hispanic Black, African American, Hispanic and Latina women are more likely than white women to [56,58-59,66-69]:

Although these factors are linked to a lower risk of breast cancer overall, this benefit may be limited to ER-positive breast cancers [56,59,66,70-74 ]. So, even though Black and Hispanic women may have these factors, the factors may not be linked to a lower risk of TNBC.

There’s even some evidence these factors may increase the risk of TNBC [65,70-71,73-74].

These topics are under study.


Higher rates of TNBC may explain, to some degree, the poor prognosis (chance of survival) of breast cancers diagnosed in younger Black, non-Hispanic Black and African American women [49,58-61,75-77].

Even among women with TNBC, African American women may have poorer survival than white women [78].

Learn about Susan G. Komen®’s work in advancing health equity.

Susan G. Komen partnered with Charles River Associates to publish the report, Inequities in Care and Treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer Patients, on the barriers to the care and treatment of TNBC.

Read the full report.

Read our blog, The Racial Injustice of Breast Cancer.

Financial assistance

Costs related to breast cancer care can quickly become a financial burden. Dealing with finances and insurance can be overwhelming.

Learn more about insurance plans and prescription drug assistance programs.

Learn more about other financial assistance programs.

Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

  • Do you need help? We’re here for you. The Komen Patient Care Center is your trusted, go-to source for timely, accurate breast health and breast cancer information, services and resources. Our navigators offer free, personalized support to patients, caregivers and family members, including education, emotional support, financial assistance, help accessing care and more. Get connected to a Komen navigator by contacting the Breast Care Helpline at 1-877-465-6636 or email to get started. All calls are answered Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m to 7 p.m. ET and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Se habla español.
  • The Komen Breast Cancer and Komen Metastatic (Stage IV) Breast Cancer Facebook groups are places where those with breast cancer and their family and friends can talk with others for friendship and support.
  • Our fact sheets, booklets and other education materials offer additional information.

Updated 12/27/23