WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The number of new cases
of breast cancer has jumped dramatically worldwide, from about
640,000 in 1980 to more than 1.6 million in 2010, University of
Washington researchers report.
Over the same period, the number of cases of cervical cancer has
crept up much more slowly and deaths from that cancer have
declined, although in 2010 it still killed 200,000 women around the
world. In 2010, 51 percent of new cases of breast cancer and 76
percent of the 454,000 cases of cervical cancer were in developing
countries, the researchers noted.
"The world used to think of breast cancer as a problem that only high-income countries had and cervical cancer as a problem mainly for developing countries," said coauthor Dr. Rafael Lozano, a professor of global health at the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
"What we have found is that while countries such as the United States and United Kingdom have been able to greatly lower the risk of women dying from breast cancer, through better screening and treatment, countries with fewer resources are seeing their risks go up," he said.
The world rightly recognizes that no woman should die because of
complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, Lozano said.
"Now that we can clearly see the trends in breast and cervical
cancer, they need to become a central part of the discussion when
priorities are being set for women's health programs," he said.
The report was published in the Sept. 15 online edition of
For the study, Lozano and colleagues collected data from more
than 300 cancer registries and cause-of-death offices in 187
During the 30 years covered by the study, breast cancer cases
have increased in all parts of the world by 3.1 percent a year, the
In addition, among women aged 15 to 49 there were twice as many
cases of breast cancer in developing countries than in developed
countries, they note. Deaths from breast cancer were also higher in
developing countries compared with developed countries.
However, around the world the increase in deaths from breast
cancer has been slower than the increases in cases. This may be due
possibly to early detection and treatment advances in developed
countries, the researchers say.
"It is clear from the data that since the late 1980s, women who develop breast cancer have had a better chance of surviving because early screening is working and treatment is working," Lozano said.
In 1980, one out of every 32 women in the United States risked
dying from breast cancer. By 2010, one out of every 46 women had
that risk, he added.
When one looks at countries where screening and treatment are
not as widely available, the trend is in the opposite direction,
"In Zimbabwe, for example, the risk has gone from one in 64 women dying to one in 35. Not only is the threat of breast cancer and cervical cancer shifting more heavily toward developing countries, it also is shifting to women of reproductive age," he said.
It used to be that these cancers were predominately a problem
for women over 50, but more and more women in sub-Saharan Africa,
the Middle East and South Asia are being hit by these cancers
between the ages of 15 and 49, Lozano said. "In Bangladesh, more
than 60 percent of women dying from breast cancer are under age
50," he added.
Since 1980, new cases and deaths from cervical cancer have
increased mainly in south and east Asia, Latin America, and Africa,
but have dropped substantially in high-income countries,
particularly where widespread screening is available, Lozano's
"Our concern there is that this is a disease that is almost entirely preventable through safe sex practices and early detection, yet it continues to kill" hundreds of thousands of women every year, Lozano said.
Ahmedin Jemal, vice president for surveillance research at the
American Cancer Society, said the increase in breast cancer
diagnosis is partly to increased awareness.
But most importantly, he said, the risk factors for breast
cancer include reproductive factors such as late child bearing and
late menopause. These factors increase with economic development
[and so] increased in the developing world -- not as much as in the
developed world. But, that's the driving factor," he said.
In addition, obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer and it
has been increasing around the world, Jemal said.
To reduce the incidence of breast cancer, Jemal says, more
awareness of early detection and access to care is needed. Also,
women should be encouraged to reduce the known risk factors for the
disease, he said, such as obesity.
As far as cervical cancer is concerned, the increase in
developing areas is due to lack of access to screening with Pap
tests, he said. With the development of the HPV vaccine, Jemal said
he hopes to see the rate of cervical cancer decline, especially
since drug makers are making the vaccine available at a low price
to developing areas.
For more information on breast cancer, visit the
American Cancer Society.
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