The women and men running the Susan G. Koman 3-Day for the Cure walk this weekend have a lot to be walking for.
A new global study found that 1.6 women around the world were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Researchers from the University of Washington analyzed cancer registries and other data from 187 countries and determined that newly diagnosed breast cancer cases rose from about 641,000 cases in 1980 to 1.6 million cases last year. They also found that cervical cancer rates increased from 378,000 new cases in 1980 to about 454,000 cases in 2010, with most of those cases found in the developing world.
The increase in breast cancer is partly explained by aging populations, since older women are more vulnerable. But the globalization of bad habits – people eating more fatty foods and exercising less—is also driving the growth, particularly in Asia and Latin America.
“People may wonder what the urgency is in addressing these cancers, but the numbers are staggering,” said Jan Coebergh, a cancer expert at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study. “It's like six jumbo jets crashing every day.”
“We've been getting better at helping women with breast cancer survive in the West,” said Christopher Murray, one of the paper's authors. “Now we need to make that a priority for women everywhere.”
African-American women are no strangers to breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, it's estimated that 26,840 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among African-American women this year alone. And while African-American women may be less likely to develop breast cancer than white women, we are twice as likely to die from it and more likely to develop aggressive forms of the disease. Past studies show that 20 to 30 percent of breast cancers in African-American women are triple-negative breast cancers — cancers that do not respond to drugs that try to stop the cancer’s growth.
It's not completely known why some people develop breast cancer and some people don't — there are factors that play a role in increasing the likelihood of being diagnosed. Race, age and genetics are believed to play a part, as well as alcohol consumption and obesity.
But early detection is crucial.
The American Cancer Society recommends these screening guidelines for most adults:
— Yearly mammograms are recommended, starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
— Clinical breast exams (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel, and report any changes promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their early 20s that should be performed regularly.
Some women may have to begin screening earlier or more frequently. Talk to your health care provider about when you should begin screening yourself for breast cancer.
To learn more about breast cancer, click here.
(Photo: PA Photos/Landov)