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Changing patterns in survival for U.S. women with invasive breast cancer

, by DCEG Staff

Breast cancer mortality rates have been declining among women in many western countries since the 1970s. Overall, breast cancer survival rates following diagnosis have improved for all women diagnosed with local and regional (area around the tumor) disease. Women diagnosed before age 70 have experienced lower short-term (less than 5 years) death rates, even for metastatic disease. And the long-term death rates (survival beyond the first 5 years) have improved among those with local and regional disease in all age groups. Tumor size at diagnosis has shrunk since the 1980s, but new evidence shows that changes in tumor size within each stage at diagnosis explain only a small proportion of the improvement in breast cancer mortality in women under the age of 70. However, changes in tumor size account for about half of the improvements for women diagnosed with local or regional breast cancer at age 70 and older.

This conclusion comes from an analysis of data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. The study also found that changes in estrogen receptor (ER) status explain little of the improvement after adjustment for tumor size, except for women age 70 and older within 5 years after diagnosis. Results of this study, by Mitchell H. Gail, M.D., Ph.D., and William F. Anderson, M.D., both with the NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and their colleague, Ju-Hyun Park, Ph.D., Dongguk University-Seoul, appeared online July 20, 2015, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read more about breast cancer survival trends in the full NCI News Note.

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William F. Anderson, M.D., M.P.H.

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