How does age play a role in breast cancer risk?

Up to age 40, less than 5% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S.

Breast Cancer Survivors. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CCMA)

Many of us are aware that genetics can play a big role in the risk of getting breast cancer, but age is also a factor.

Regardless of your gender, the older you are, the more likely your diagnosis of breast cancer.

But why? According to Susan G. Komen, as we age, it is more likely that we will have abnormal changes in our cells. As that happens, cancer can develop.

Up to the age of 40, less than 5% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. After that, rates begin to increase, but they’re highest in women older than 70.

Susan G. Komen reports that about half of women with breast cancer were diagnosed before 62 years old. The other half were diagnosed after that.

Race and ethnicity can also play a role in median age of diagnoses.

The median age at diagnoses for white women is 64, whereas for Black women it is 60.

We’ve discussed the risk for women, so what about men?

Though breast cancer is far less common in men than women, age still plays a role, as the older he is, the more likely a man is to get breast cancer.

For men, about half were diagnosed with breast cancer before age 67, and half after.

Just like with women, men, too, are impacted by race and ethnicity when it comes to breast cancer diagnoses.

For example, the median age at which black men are diagnosed is 63, a five-year difference from white men at 68.

This story was first published in 2019. It has since been updated.