The Facts Breast Cancer and Young Women


Despite the prevailing opinion that young women don’t get breast cancer, the reality is that they can and they do. In fact, one in every 258 women between the ages of 30 and 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer within the next 10 years. Following are some additional startling facts about breast cancer in young women:

  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women ages 15-40.
  • Approximately 10,600 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with

breast cancer this year, and close to 1300 will die.

  • There are nearly 250,000 women in the United States under the age of 40 currently living with breast cancer.
  • Young women’s cancers are generally more aggressive and result in lower survival rates.
  • When breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages, the 5-year survival rate is 82 percent for women under the age of 40.
  • Young women with breast cancer struggle with many issues that their post-menopausal counterparts don’t face, including the possibility of early menopause, pregnancy after diagnosis, generally more advanced cancers at diagnosis, and higher mortality rates.
  • Young women are virtually excluded from breast cancer studies; most are conducted on women over the age of 45.

Reprinted with permission from the American Cancer Society’s website

The Facts

Breast Cancer and Ashkenazi Women

All women have a lifetime risk of 8-12 percent of developing breast cancer.

  • One in 40-50 Ashkenazi Jewish women carries a BRAC1 or BRAC2 gene mutation which can lead to developing hereditary breast cancer.
  • Those who carry a gene mutation have a 50-60 percent risk of actually getting breast cancer.
  • Due to the presence of the mutation, the estimated lifetime risk of developing breast cancer for an Ashkenazi Jewish woman is approximately one to two percent higher than that facing the rest of the population.
  • Genetically linked breast cancer accounts for only 5-10 percent of all breast cancers.

Reprinted with permission from the Hadassah website

This article was featured in the Fall 2002 issue of Jewish Action.