Twice as many breast cancer cases since 1980

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Since 1980, the breast cancer rate has increased by 260 percent worldwide

An increasing number of women are developing breast cancer, according to a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. The number of patients worldwide has risen sharply: In 2010, around 1.6 million new patients suffered from breast cancer. That is twice as many as 30 years ago. Nevertheless, the death rate in western countries has dropped.

A common cause of death for women over the age of 15 is breast and cervical cancer. Therefore, US researchers examined the mortality rates of patients from 187 countries and found a rapid increase in the disease. Fewer and fewer women have to die from breast cancer, but the incidence rate has almost doubled since 1980. Physicians from the Institute for Health Criteria and Evaluation at the US University of Washington in Seattle have presented the evaluations of cancer data records from the past 30 years in the specialist magazine "The Lancet". In doing so, they found that breast cancer cases across the globe have greatly maximized. While around 640,000 new cases were still counted in 1980, there were already a good 1.6 million new cases last year. From a purely statistical perspective, this means an increase of 260 percent and an annual rate of increase of 3.1 percent. The research consortium was able to identify a significant increase in the number of first-time illnesses, especially among women of younger ages between 15 and 49 years of age in developing countries.

Fewer women who die from breast cancer It should be mentioned positively that the number of subsequent deaths from breast cancer fell proportionately between 1980 and 2010. Although 250,000 died of breast cancer in 1980 and around 425,000 in 2010, the increase is relativized in relation to the number of initial diagnoses made. Accordingly, the number of deaths increased relatively more slowly than the new cases. To put it more clearly: Today, far fewer patients die from malignant tumors in the breast than in the 1980s. The scientists also found that the death rate and first-time disease rate of cervical cancer dropped sharply, even though more than 200,000 women died of the cancer in 2010.

Higher death rates in developing countries
During the research work, the research team examined the statistics and course of breast cancer and cervical cancer. They used a total of 300 central cancer registries from 187 countries. To back up the data, the scientists used the "Gaussian process regression" to relate mortality, age, country and year to each other. More than half (51 percent) of cancer tumors now occur in third world countries. In 1980 the share here was only 35 percent. In western industrialized countries such as the USA, every 32nd patient died of breast cancer in 1980, and thirty years later only every 47th woman succumbed to breast cancer. An opposite trend can be demonstrated in developing countries: Here, every sixtieth woman dies of breast cancer. 30 years ago, only every 97th person in poor countries succumbed to suffering. Why more patients in developing countries are dying of cancer today can only be assumed. Either today's data is better recorded in the Third World countries or the increasing environmental poisoning contributes to increased mortality. Both must capture further research. In view of the evaluations, the scientists called for "more political attention so that more is invested in research, particularly in developing countries".

Mortality from cervical cancer has dropped in western countries, scientists say, through improved screening techniques and programs. More women go to preventive checkups in industrialized countries. "Women in higher-income countries like the US and the UK benefit from cancer detection, drug treatment and vaccines," study author Rafael Lozano said. The researchers could not say why the breast cancer rate increased. For example, further studies had shown that hormone use during menopause increases the risk of breast cancer.

Benefits and Risks of Mammography Screening Controversial In evidence-based medicine, the consideration of the benefits and possible health effects of early detection of breast cancer is controversial. For example, in a study conducted in 2010 in Denmark, Danish researchers found that mammography screening in older women between 50 and 69 years of age makes no positive contribution to lowering the death rate. According to the doctors at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, tumors that have been found could not develop malignant at all so quickly that they could then be treated promisingly. In the evaluation, the Danish researchers could not see any connection between the mammography and the decrease in the death rate. They criticize that mammography screening often leads to overdiagnosis and that women are unnecessarily confronted with stressful breast cancer treatment. However, derivation and the methodical implementation of the study are strongly criticized by wide specialist groups. (sb)

Read about breast cancer:
Hormones can cause breast cancer
New diagnostic method for breast cancer
No protection against breast cancer from green tea?
Breast cancer screening: a lot of exercise instead of hormones

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