Statistics and Disparities

Numbers to Open Your Eyes:

Facts and Statistics

If popular opinion were true—that young women don’t get breast cancer—YSC wouldn’t be here. We all know the truth, though—young women can and do get breast cancer. And the facts back us up. Here are some startling stats to wake us all up—and get us ready to defeat this disease together.

Women Just Like Us:

  • You’re not the only one: Each year, approximately 70 thousand men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the US. Breast cancer accounts for roughly 15% of all cancers in this age group.1
  • Women ages 15 to 34 and 35 to 54 die more frequently from breast cancer than any other cancer.2
  • In 2009, the American Cancer Society predicted more than 190,000 new cases of breast cancer in women. They estimated that roughly 18,600 of these women would be younger than 45.3

A Different Enemy:

  • Compared to older women, young women generally face more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates.3,4
  • More and more evidence tells us that breast cancer before age 40 differs biologically from the cancer faced by older women.4

Our Unique Challenges:

  • No effective breast-cancer screening tool yet exists for women ages 40 or younger.
  • Young women with breast cancer struggle with many issues either not present or much less severe in the lives of older women, including:
    • The possibility of early menopause
    • Effects on fertility
    • Questions about pregnancy after diagnosis
    • Concerns about body image
    • Challenges to financial stability
  • Since breast cancer occurs at a much lower rate among young women than in our older counterparts, we remain underrepresented in many research studies.4

Your Background, Your Challenges: Health Disparities

  • African American women under age 35 have rates of breast cancer two times higher than Caucasian women under age 35.1
  • African American women under age 35 die from breast cancer three times as often as Caucasian women of the same age.2
  • Researchers believe that access to healthcare and the quality of healthcare available may explain these disparities, although scientists continue to investigate.1 Research also shows that young, African American women are more likely to get aggressive forms of breast cancer than anyone else.5

Count Us as Friends: Changing Numbers and Lives

Read the numbers listed above once and they look like statistics. Read them again, and they might look like allies. When all young women affected by breast cancer work together, we can raise awareness, improve our representation in research and make each other stronger. YSC remains dedicated to those goals, working to turn our unique challenges into opportunities for shared success.


1 Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Progress Review Group. Closing the Gap: Research and Care Imperatives for Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute and the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance. Available at: AYAO_PRG_Report_2006_FINAL.pdf

2 National Cancer Institute. (2006). 2006 Fact Book. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:

3 American Cancer Society. (2009). Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2009-10. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, Inc. Available at:

4 Partridge, A.H. et al. (2009). Breast Cancer in Younger Women. In J. Harris (Ed.), Diseases of the Breast (pp. 1073-1083). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

5 Carey, L.A. et al. (2006). Race, Breast Cancer Subtypes, and Survival in the Carolina Breast Cancer Study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 295(21), 2492-2502.