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Breast Cancer Statistics in Canada

By Rethink Breast Cancer May 2 2018

The latest in breast health and breast cancer statistics in Canada.

In 2017, the Canadian Cancer Society released their most recent predictive cancer statistics for breast cancer in Canada. In June 2018, a new report will be released highlighting cancer in Canada by stage at diagnosis and their 2019 report will include updated estimates of incidence, survival, and mortality.

But, for now, here’s what we know…


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women.

Together, prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers will account for half of all cancers diagnosed in Canada in 2017. Year after year, breast cancer has been the most common type of cancer found in Canadian women. In 2017, there was an estimated 103,200 new cases of cancer in Canadian women and breast cancer was at the top of that list, making up 26% of those cases (26,300 women).


The incidence rate has stayed the same.

In the 1990s, the breast cancer incident rate rose. However, this was largely due to advancements in mammography screening and provincial screening programs that helped diagnose more breast cancers. Since then, incidence rates have remained relatively stable. There has been virtually no change in the age-standardized incidence rate over the past 3 years (130.3 cases per 100,000 people).


Rates of breast cancer in young women is exceptionally low.

In females, the lifetime probability of developing cancer is 12.4%. However, most breast cancer diagnoses are in women aged 50-69 (51%). The second largest group is women 70+, with 32% of breast cancer diagnoses in this age group. This means only 17% of breast cancers are expected to be diagnosed in women under 50 and most of these cases (13%) are in women between the ages of 40 and 49. Therefore, only 4-5% of diagnoses are predicted to occur in women under the age of 40.


Canada’s breast cancer mortality rate is the lowest its been since 1950.

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in females in Canada. In 2017, it was estimated that 13% of cancer deaths will be from breast cancer (5,000 deaths). However, the overall breast cancer mortality rate in Canada is the lowest it has been since 1950. After its peak in 1986, the mortality rate has fallen 44%. This is likely due to improved overall cancer control, including  increased mammography screening and the use of more effective therapies following breast cancer surgery.


Women under 50 have higher rates of death when it comes to breast cancer.

The burden of a breast cancer diagnosis remains heavy on women under the age of 50. While these women make up a smaller portion of overall breast cancer incidences in Canada, their rates of death are higher. 21% of all cancer deaths occur in women ages 30-59 years, whereas only 12% occur in women 60 and older.

Breast cancer is also still the second leading cause of death in females (under age 50) next to lung cancer as measured by potential years of life lost (PYLL). PYLL accounts for average life expectancy and gives more weight to deaths that occur among younger people. With regard to breast cancer, the PYLL from female breast cancer is 137,000 reflecting that women die from breast cancer at relatively younger ages. For some context, the PYLL for prostate cancer was 24,000, reflecting that these deaths occur more often in the older age groups.

There are many possible reasons for this, like delayed diagnosis and the fact that breast cancers in young women are known to be more aggressive. While there has been an increased focus on screening for young women who are known to be high risk, most women under 50 are not actively targeted for breast cancer screening, clinical trials, or research across the country.


We’ve hit a stalemate for breast cancer survival in Canada.

It’s good to know that we aren’t seeing higher rates of breast cancer in women, but you always want to see improvements too. We’ve seemed to hit a stalemate for breast cancer survival in Canada – with the 5-year survival rate remaining steadily at 87% since 2011. And the 5-year survival rate for young women with breast cancer is the second lowest among all the age groups:

· 85% in women ages 15-39
· 90% in women ages 40-49
· 89% in women ages 50-59
· 90% in women ages 60-69
· 87% in women ages 70-79
· 78% in women ages 80-99


What this means for the future of young women.

It means we STILL need to address treatment and care issues for young women in Canada. Including:

· Delays in diagnosis
· More advanced cancers at diagnosis
· Higher mortality rates
· Low participation in clinical trials
· Lack of age-appropriate care
· Concerns around social support during cancer treatment
· Late effects of treatment
· Recurrence
· Longer-term, psychosocial concerns/factors


Rethink Breast Cancer will continue to be at the forefront in addressing these concerns through helping young people asses their risk, crafting advocacy campaigns around Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) and access to treatment, savvy education and awareness so that women are able to take their health in their own hands, and providing targeted resources to meet the psychosocial needs of young women with breast cancer globally through programs, like LiveLaughLearn.

Stay tuned!