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

Age

Age is a well-established risk factor for breast cancer.

Breast cancer in women

The older a woman is, the more likely she is to get breast cancer.

Rates of breast cancer are low in women under 40. About 4 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. are younger than 40 [4].

Rates begin to increase after age 40 and are highest in women over age 70 (see Figure 2.1 below).

Age at diagnosis

The median age of diagnosis of breast cancer for women in the U.S. is 62 [609]. The median is the middle value of a group of numbers, so about half of women with breast cancer were diagnosed before age 62 and about half were diagnosed after age 62.

The median age of diagnosis varies by race and ethnicity.

For example, black women tend to be diagnosed at a younger age than white women [609]. The median age at diagnosis for black women is 60, compared to 63 for white women [609].

Learn more about race, ethnicity and breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer in men

The older a man is, the more likely he is to get breast cancer.

However, breast cancer is much less common in men than in women (see Figure 2.1 below).

Age at diagnosis

The median age of diagnosis of breast cancer overall for men in the U.S. is 68 [609]. The median is the middle value of a group of numbers, so about half of men with breast cancer were diagnosed before age 68 and about half were diagnosed after age 68.

The median age of diagnosis varies by race and ethnicity.

For example, black men tend to be diagnosed at a younger age than white men [609]. The median age at diagnosis for black men is 64, compared to 69 for white men [609].

Learn more about breast cancer in men.

Learn more about race, ethnicity and breast cancer risk.

Why does age increase the risk of breast cancer?

The older we are, the more likely abnormal changes will occur in our cells. When many of these changes occur, cancer can develop.  

Figure 2.1 

 Figure 2.1

Data source: SEER 2013-2017 [607]  

Note: This graph shows a rate of 0 in some age groups, but there are a few cases of breast cancer in these age groups. However, the numbers are too small to appear on the scale used here.

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