We dug into the data to compile this surprising list.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Katie Couric Media has committed to exploring the experience of breast cancer. We’re featuring candid survivor stories, explaining the different types of breast cancer, and giving tutorials for self breast exams. Of course, Katie has also opened up about her own, very recent breast cancer diagnosis in a personal essay. Hopefully, we’ll help and inspire patients, survivors, caregivers, and everyone else who has been affected by this disease.
All of this reporting involves digging through studies and statistics, and that research often reflects some eye-opening facts. While cancer obviously affects people worldwide, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022 there will be 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 51,400 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in the U.S. Unfortunately, about 43,250 American patients will die from breast cancer as well.
Naturally, most readers might be curious about how those “big picture” statistics translate to smaller, more personal contexts. To break down the data even further, we consulted the American Cancer Institute’s 2022 list of facts and figures and compiled the top states with two different types of highest rates.
First, we focused on the incidence rate, which, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, “shows the number of breast cancer cases in a set population size over a period of time.” Incidence rate is more useful because raw numbers that simply record new cases don’t take growing population size into account.
Higher incidence rates don’t necessarily determine higher rates of mortality, though. With that in mind, we also sourced the American Cancer Institute’s 2022 list to find the states with the highest breast cancer mortality rates.
If you’re a visual learner, the National Cancer Institute also has a detailed interactive map to help visualize cancer rates across the United States.
States With the Highest Breast Cancer Incidence Rates From 2014-2018
New Hampshire: 143 per 100,000 women
Connecticut: 140 per 100,000
Hawaii: 140 per 100,000
Rhode Island: 140 per 100,000
Washington D.C.: 140 per 100,000
North Carolina: 137 per 100,000
New Jersey: 137 per 100,000
Massachusetts: 137 per 100,000
Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Wyoming have the lowest incidence rates.
States With the Highest Breast Cancer Death Rates From 2015-2019
Washington D.C.: 25 per 100,000 women
Mississippi: 23 per 100,000
Oklahoma: 23 per 100,000
Nevada: 22 per 100,000
Ohio: 22 per 100,000
Tennessee: 22 per 100,000
Louisiana: 22 per 100,000
West Virginia: 22 per 100,000
Interestingly, three states with higher incidence rates — Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts — have the lowest breast cancer mortality rate. And in New Hampshire, where the incidence rate is the highest of all the states, the mortality rate is 18, which is on the lower end of the spectrum.
Of course, this doesn’t mean where you live necessarily has an impact on your breast cancer risk level (or at least, not that anyone knows of as of yet). Risk is more closely associated with genetic predisposition, age, breast density, alcohol use, activity level, and weight.
Plus, the CDC points out that medical care varies by state: “In states where higher percentages of the population participate in cancer screening, more cancers will be diagnosed.” The cancer incidence rate intersects with differences among racial and ethnic populations, different health behaviors among different populations, and other factors, too. So if your state is high up on either of these lists, keep in mind that many factors shape this data.