Study: Troubling Trends in Women’s Breast Cancer

The findings of a new study show a concerning trend in women’s breast cancer – rates of breast cancer in premenopausal women are growing in higher income nations, while rates of breast cancer in postmenopausal women are growing in lower income countries. The study appeared in The Lancet Global Health.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the global rates and trends of pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer,” says Dr. Miranda Fidler-Benaoudia, PhD, study principal investigator and member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) in a press release about the study. “Distinguishing between pre- and postmenopausal breast cancer allowed us to uncover different trends, which could be important for tailoring prevention efforts and curbing the future breast cancer burden worldwide.”

The study, comprised of data from 41 countries, shows a spike in breast cancer rates in women of all ages, but the increase in premenopausal breast cancer in higher income countries is particularly concerning, according to Miranda Fidler-Benaoudia, PhD, study principal investigator and member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). Dr. Fidler-Benaoudia observed that premenopausal breast cancer was significantly increasing in 20 out of 44 populations, each representing a country or an ethnic group, she studied.

The risk of developing cancer increases as a woman ages, says Dr. Fidler-Benaoudia. It’s well understood that in postmenopausal women breast cancer risks are augmented by such factors as obesity and having children later in life are well studied, but risk factors for developing breast cancer when you’re young are not as well known.

“When young people get cancer, the impact on them is huge and it can lead to major repercussions later in life,” says Dr. Fidler-Benaoudia. “For example, the current life expectancy in Canada is around 80 years, so when a person is diagnosed at 30, they could live another 50 years where they are more likely to experience major health, financial and career repercussions compared to the general population as a result of their treatment.”

Dr. Fidler-Benaoudia added that: “The findings from this study shows important differences in the breast cancer burden by age and point to the need for prevention initiatives such as efforts to reduce obesity and alcohol consumption, increase physical activity and breastfeeding–all of which reduce one’s risk for developing breast cancer.”