One in eight women — about 13% — in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer, and athletes do not go unaffected by breast cancer. Though former college athletes have a significantly lower risk of breast cancer than non-athletes, many athletes still fall victim. Athletes such as Jamaican track and field athlete Novlene Williams-Mills, triathlete Karen Newman and professional mountain biker Jen Hanks have battled and beat breast cancer.
Another athlete who battled aggressive breast cancer is Kikkan Randall. Randall is an American cross-country skier. Three months after winning an Olympic gold medal in 2018, and just a few weeks after officially retiring from skiing, Randall received the heartbreaking diagnosis.
“The timing for these kinds of things is never right,” Randall said.
Randall went through intensive chemotherapy and is now cancer-free. Since retiring, Randall has become an advocate for fighting cancer and has taken more time to focus on her family.
In 2021, an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 49,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative — mother, sister, daughter — who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
As the statistics show, breast cancer can affect anyone, despite how “healthy” they may be. Raising awareness and advocating for early detection of breast cancer can help save lives.